Today is April 27th, 2016. On Tuesday, July 15th, 2015, I had the pleasure of directing a reading of a biographical play about autodidact Hubert Harrison (1883-1927) who is known as “the Father of Harlem Radicalism.” The play is called “Hubert Harrison” and is written by David Edgecombe. With all of the popular attention that the Broadway musical “Hamilton” is getting set in the past, this play takes a serious look at the impact of this thinker on radical thought in the twentieth century. “Hamilton” is based on the former U.S. Secretary of the Treasurty Alexander Hamilton whose mother was from Saint Croix, where Hubert Harrison was born. David Edgecombe frames Harrison’s life story within an exchange between two college students, Mya and Tafari. Mya the college student and hospitality major approaches Tafari the painter with a request for him to paint her. In the process of painting her, he tells her the story of Hubert Harrison and his encouragement of a Negro press, his promotion of socialism, and his struggle to make a living for himself and his family while lecturing about socialism. By the end of the play, Mya has a greater understanding of Hubert Harrison, as told to her by Tafari. The most important elements of this drama are the foils against Harrison. W.E.B. Du Bois and other forces like Edgecombe’s post office manager Charles Anderson character make it their ambition to see that Harrison has no money. Second, the ways that handpicked “Negro leadership” according to Harrison fails Negro people and is specifically designed to fail Negro people. No other play exposes this issue more clearly than David Edgecombe’s play. Edgecombe’s play manages to make the audience feel sympathetic for Harrison; to want Harrison to defeat his foils. For those interested in producing this, this part of the play must be emphasized. I am grateful for the talented group of actors that truly engaged this 7/14/15 Philadelphia reading of David Edgecombe’s script that I directed. They include Carlene Pochette who read the roles of Mary, Susan, Leah, and Ann. Tene Fletcher read the roles of Mya and Lin. Eric Holte read the roles of Tafari, Anderson, Father O’Keefe, and Du Bois. Charvez Grant read the roles of Wilford, Morgan, Spingarn, Garvey, and the narrator. I read the role of Hubert Harrison. I highly recommend producing this play. -RF.
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