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Be a part of Migritude's journey.
No contribution is too small - or too large. $2 buys coffee for a volunteer. $15 rents a rehearsal studio for an hour. $100 covers 2 hours of lighting / tech / set design. $500 helps fly Shailja to international festivals!!

You can also make a tax-deductible donation by check. Please email for details.

Friday, November 25, 2005

They said the same thing about napalm

Life Goes On in Fallujah's Rubble
By Dahr Jamail
Inter Press Service

Thursday 24 November 2005

San Francisco, California -

Last week, the Pentagon confirmed that it had used white phosphorus, a chemical that bursts into flame upon contact with air, inside Fallujah as an "incendiary weapon" against insurgents. Washington denies that it is a chemical weapon, as charged by some critics, and that it was used against civilians.

Yellow Flowers

make me happy. Something about their sunburst radiance just stretches my mouth into a responding grin, even on my gloomiest days. My friend Byron gave me a parrot tulip - exquisite yellow frilled petals, thickly dotted with red - the other day, and it glowed on my dresser like a song in my head. My director Kim gave me a huge bunch of big yellow chrysanthemums at our last rehearsal - "because this is hard work". They've been lighting up our dining room all week.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

7 days to go.....

to the first fully-staged showing of work-in-progress from Migritude. Every rehearsal shows me how far short I fall of where I want to be. I keep wondering whether the work will live up to the lighting, direction, design, music, videography, that's being invested in it. Some of it donated by amazing generous talented people, some of it funded out of my own savings, an act of faith in both the work and my capacity to take it where it needs to go.

I talked to my parents in Nairobi tonight. I told my father how nervous I am about the Dec. 2nd show. He said: "Why? You're a seasoned performer by now."

I said: "Yes, I know, but I'm doing things for this show that I haven't done before. Acting. Moving on stage. Working with lights and costume and props. I'm frightened of how inexperienced I am with all this. I'm scared that I'm just not very good at it yet, and people will see that, and be disappointed."

He said: "Why do you judge yourself? Let others judge you; that's their business. You just try your best."

I wrote those words on a post-it note and stuck it on my laptop.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Double-Header Smash Hit Evening


Migritude by Shailja Patel
Origins of a Man by Rodney Mason

Oakland, CA, November 21, 2005 -- What are the young and literate doing? Pioneering new performance styles in poetry, jazz, music, that uncover hidden narratives of migrant heritage and diasporic remnants of a post-colonial Africa and a post-slavery America. Slam poetry and hip hop are kissing cousins of new performance work, kin in sentiment and style, both hard-hitting, unflinching looks at a new millennium reality where the division between have and have-not becomes starker everyday.

Enter Shailja Patel and Rodney Mason – two performers from widely divergent backgrounds, uniquely different voices, and dramatically different performance styles. Yet both represent the emerging voice of the people commonly invisible in American mainstream culture. Not the howl of the disenfranchised, but rather the representation of cultural power and imagination that distinguishes the downright pissed-off from the merely downtrodden.

But these two artists don't alienate. They illuminate. First up, championship slam poet, Shailja Patel, shares work-in-progress from Migritude. The word itself, a play on Negritude and Attitude reclaims and celebrates migrant culture. Using her trousseau of saris and jewelry, given to her by her mother, Patel unwinds stories of the South Asian diaspora through her own experience as a 3rd generation, Kenyan-born, Indian woman. From tribal Maasai women raped by British soldiers, to an Afghani woman grieving a husband and six children killed by US bombs, to Iraqi women demanding early Cesareans sections to avoid labor during 'Shock and Awe', Patel makes the connections between empires historical and current. She brings us the voices of those who live in their bootprint.

Letters from Patel's mother, woven into the script, bring to life unseen elements of post-colonial Africa, and highlight exactly what it takes to be a migrant – be proud and clear about who you are.

In contrast, Origins of a Man comes to La Pena from Rodney Mason, Bessie award winning hip hop dancer and theater artist who toured the world as 'Rome' in Rennie Harris' Puremovement's, Rome & Jewels. Mason currently features in the Tanqueray gin ad campaign as the ghetto-fabulous character, Tony Sinclair. Origins follows Migritude to explore in camp and comedic ways, Mason's beginnings in the South Philadelphia projects and life-altering losses through death of his mother, uncle, and grandfather. Biting vignettes of Mason's experiences in the marines, then as an artist highlight the compromises inherent in his journey, and lead to his ultimate acceptance of himself as a man. Thus the title, Origins of a Man: this is Mason's personal odyssey through the African American landscape from projects to military to self-expression. And his redemption myth, wherein he defies his predictable future in unpredictable ways to reclaim himself.

Each performance is followed by an audience dialogue with the artist. The evening culminates with live music from international ensemble, Trivium, for an hour of mix-and-mingle.

Work That Lives And Pulses

I wake up at 4.30am these days. No alarm clock – just my body and brain suddenly alert, the opening invocation of Migritude running through my head. “Path-let, leaving home, leading out…..” (from Footpath, by Kenyan poet, Stella Ngatho). By the time I’m half-way through it, I’m also half-way down the ladder of my loft-bed. If I’m efficient, by 5am, I’ve walked the dark street to the rehearsal studio, and I’m creaking my body through warm-ups.

Every morning, I resist that climb down the ladder. Some days, I cheat. I lie in bed, run the script through my head, tell myself that visualization is almost as powerful as actual motion. But on the days I do make it into the studio, there’s always a magical half-way point where it all comes together – body, voice, feeling – shoots sparks into every corner of the room. I forget the floor burns on my elbow and hip, the aches in my muscles and brain. The endless litany in my head of the business of producing a show: Fundraise, Write Grants, Market, PR, Outreach, Contact Presenters. Design, Print, Copy, Post. Budgets, Timelines, Contracts. Fundraise, Write Grants, Market, PR, Outreach…...

When the magic kicks in, there is only the living work, pulsing around me, telling me what it needs to be. It is the purest kind of joy.
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