Wilson as Redemption Song


We are wandering in the wilderness; all there is to save us is an unsung song of self. If you can’t imagine North America as a wilderness you have not experienced history from my perspective. My people were captured and sold into servitude by a savage country founded in violence stolen from the indigenous people they found living in what they named North America. They made a grave yard of the Atlantic Ocean in the process of the inhumane  transporting of millions of human beings bound for the most dehumanizing bondage the world has ever witnessed.

Once here they were stripped of semblance of humanity save that they claimed for themselves. They were for all intent obliterated, left unable to trace tribe, village, religion, language, or worldview. They were rewritten as property to be used in any manner seen fit. The concepts of honor, love, and duty were undone as were the institutions of marriage,childbearing, and by default family, all torn apart and set outside of the African– now slave, in a society that placed the slave outside of humanity.

If they ran they were hunted. If they resisted they were slaughtered. They were set afire, and hung from trees. They were caged, bartered, sold, raped, murdered, and considered no better than animals of the field.

Slavery ended and they were set free into nothing with nothing to make their way out of no way. This country has shook them from place to place in so called migrations which under closer scrutiny more resemble refugees fleeing.

Wilson’s work offers a view of the 20th Century in North America from the view of the descendants of cooks, mammy’s, share croppers, garbage men, waitresses, nail makers, steel workers, those that bent their backs to set the telephone poles in the ground and drive the railroad ties, the collective of America’s Blues people. These are their stories, this is their song of survival and the every present quest for equity in this land of equality where lynchings made their way into the new millennium and one can make a cogent case that slave catchers still exist with body cams in black and whites and they neither protect or serve us in the most literal sense.

Wilson places us center stage between the epic events of this countries history in our daily reality as ‘most human’ in search of honor and dignity. He credits us with the means for reinvention as borne by our achievements here and our legacy which stretches beyond the shores of this continent to embrace a highly developed sense of community, a view of god, a sense of worth, a cosmology, an epistemology, an artful aesthetic, and worldview that we managed to hold onto, albeit it in shreds. We are trying to remember who we are in a world that changes but manages to leave us standing in the rear of the line.

When we see our sense of continuity as a song emanating from the collective soul we can begin to grasp the enormity of Wilson’s gift to us. In his Cycle he has captured the essence of our blue black determination to thrive, our brokenness, our insistence on a share of what we built, our loving hearts, our patient longing, our twisted paths, the barbed wire, the places we leave the path, and wander into the dark, the places our light is made and the chance of wholeness waiting in remembering, claiming, and singing our song of self. It is a redemption song carved from the blues instructed by jazz and re imagined in hip hop, it is our beating heart saying I Am.

It has been a great honor to stage this work. I will be sorting the gifts it has offered up for the remainder of my life. I have been hugely influenced by Wilson and I am grateful. I invite you to join us as we finish our American Century Cycle Project. We are currently offering King Hedley, II at the Flight Deck through September 6th.

Hedley is a beautiful work for right now in North American inner cities. It offers a glimpse into the beginning of gun proliferation in urban spaces. The era of Reaganomics, Crack decimation, and inter-group violence have a sick relationship that continues to influence our quality of life. It’s a raw wake up call, a gun shot in the night, the site of a train wreck…sometimes you must go back to see now more clearly. King Hedley, II offers that chance in a dark, soaring, blues filled blood ritual of a play. You can’t miss it.



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About Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD

I create; therefore I am.
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