From Jackie Robinson to Little Rock, there’s little doubt Sheen Center is killing it this year.
Sheen Center for Thought & Culture, located on Bleecker Street and home to events and memorabilia of the Catholic faith, took it upon themselves to tell the stories of Black America’s greatest – just in time for the February shine. It all started with simple conversation.
“Race in America: Telling our Stories” took place in the Loreto Theatre at the Sheen Center on Feb. 20th. With those attending being prominent figures in their field of narrative flair, they include: Major Jackson, Sapphire, and Patrick Phillips. The flavor of the night was on our differences. You could otherwise translate that to: “how can we make our societal offenses as a people into a lesson to be learned?”
The orators chose to speak of their personal struggles in relation to their work. For Major Jackson, his poems and essay collections. For Sapphire, her bestselling novels “Push” and “The Kid”. For Patrick Phillips, his novel “Blood at the Root” and his poetry collections. The repertoire of content behind these names speaks for itself, as Race in America promoted sensible discussion on racial terror and exploitation behind the common man. Going further into this, how do we learn from the sorts of uncomfortable experiences we come into contact with? The events of Little Rock back in the 1950’s says we achieve this by paying attention.
“Little Rock: The Staged Reading” rang home the indisputable fact that being Black is tough. The play premiered last week Thursday, with general management from Walker Communications, and had special guest Carlotta Walls-LaNier, a member of the nine, attend the event. It was something. But if the play had any say, it was that being Black in the 1950’s seemed a social death sentence; capital punishment complete with the mockery of your peers from the White majority and the ire of those in power towards your very existence.
Little Rock took the power of theatre to the next level, exemplifying the potency of the insults, environment and existential standing towards your typical Black student in an atypical environment – the all-white high school. Of course, in a modern day setting, nothing comes close – but there was something magical in the immediate dejection and vexation of every usage of the “n” word from the audience, as our Little Rock heroes came face to face with every-day dangers, most notably from their own student body. But that’s alright. After all, it’s because the Little Rock Nine proclaimed “We shall overcome!” that their struggles made history.
“Jackie Robinson: The Faith Behind The Legend” premiered last Tuesday. Robinson, of whom valued respect over all, was a peculiar figure in Black American history. Unlike the peace advocated by King, Robinson spoke back against oppression and personally attacked those who wronged him. Although far from the extreme Black nationalism that defined Malcolm X, Robinson simply wasn’t a fan of insults towards his character. That charisma was a defining trait of the Civil Rights Movement. And it was Robinson’s robustness and tenacity that certainly fancied author Ed Henry, man behind the book “42 Faith: The Rest of the Jackie Robinson Story”. For Henry, faith proved essential in Robinson’s physical and mental prowess on the baseball field, breaking the color barrier and attributing success to his creator. Henry, who struggled to procure information from primary sources regarding Robinson’s life, nevertheless conjured brilliance.
And it was all certainly worth the time.