Think YOUR Family Has Issues? You Haven't Seen 'Stick Fly' on Broadway

Photo of the marquee while waiting in line for doors to open
The first time I learned about playwright Lydia R. Diamond, I was sitting in a small, windowless conference room on the campus of Harvard University.  Sitting next to me was one of my best friends Rachel who was visiting us in Boston during a break from her studies at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.  Across the table from us sat her former professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, John Diamond.  Seeing as though I considered myself the third wheel, I sat quietly during most of their conversation as they bantered back in forth about all things academia such as her research in England and his experiences as a member of Harvard’s faculty.

But the most indelible part of their conversation was the palpable pride Professor Diamond displayed while talking about his wife Lydia, her work as a playwright, and the strides she was making in expanding her firmly established reputation from Chicago to Boston.  I made a mental note to look up her work and began following her career from afar, catching news about her local productions and her interviews in local publications and shows.  So when heard earlier this year that her play Stick Fly was Broadway-bound -- being directed by Kenny Leon and produced by Alicia Keys no less—the first thing I did was call Rachel saying: “Dude.  This is huge.”

So last week my husband and I headed down to New York for the first preview performance of Stick Fly’s Broadway production.  Stick Fly delves into a host of topics including race, color, class, privilege, education, sibling rivalries, and of particular interest: interracial relationships.  The play is set on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in the vacation home of the LeVays, an affluent African-American family.  The two LeVay sons Kent (Dulé Hill) and Flip (Mekhi Phifer) arrive for a family vacation weekend -- one with his black, entomologist fiancée Taylor (Tracee Thoms) and the other with his Italian white, European-backpacker turned Peace Corps member turned savior of Black and Latino inner city children girlfriend Kimber (Rosie Benton).  Add to the plot some family dysfunction and well-kept secrets that come to light and you have two hours of jaw-dropping, gasping, and laughing out loud.  And don't be surprised if you hear the person behind you let out an "Oh no s/he didn't!" or an "I KNOW that's right!" before the night is over.

Photo of the set from our seats
Having read the play this summer, I knew that the foundation of such excellent performances by the cast (particularly the character of Cheryl played by Condola Rashad) was Lydia Diamond's writing, particularly her knack for voice and dialogue.  On more than occasion, my husband commented: "These actors are really good at improvising.  I mean, they just made that up that one line on the spot right? That wasn't in the script was it?"  And on more than one occasion I'd reply, "Um, honey, it's in the script.  Lydia Diamond wrote that."

I have no reservations giving this play two, enthusiastic thumbs up.  If there is any play that would leave you challenging assumptions, Stick Fly would be it.

The cast of Stick Fly at curtain call: Rosie Benton, Mekhi Phifer, Dulé  Hill, Tracee Thoms, Condola Rashad and Ruben Santiago-Hudson

T-Shirts Say The Darndest Things: My Blogalicious Weekend Recap

Yours truly. Don't ask no questions. Blogalicious11/Credit: Carol Cain

Getting my cookbook signed by "Big Daddy"Aaron McCargo Jr.
The solitary image that encapsulates my Blogalicious 2011 Weekend? According to my husband, it's the pile of reusable bags slowing taking over our hallway closet.  Well, he does have a point. When he dropped me off at the airport, I had a single suitcase and small carry-on.  When he picked me up two weeks later,  he looked amused as I waddled from baggage claim to the car so I wouldn't tip over from the weight of three additional bags of "stuff" I'd acquired during my trip.

But in conferences--as in life--people are more important than things, and above all, Blogalicious provided a great opportunity to connect with a supportive community of diverse women (and men!) in social media.  Some whom I'd known before ever meeting like Michelle, Euphoria, and Ruby.  But mostly new friends like Nae, Janelle, Jenda, Thien, Kathy, Nanette, Chai, Patricia and Paula Patton (I know ya'll like how I just threw in that last one in there). 

So why all the "stuff"? Well, because brands, causes, movements, films, and authors come out in full force at Blogalicious, seeking to amplify their reach and impact through social media.  While meandering through the exhibition area I noticed a gentleman wearing a Red Sox cap and made a beeline to his booth.  Turns out he was from DailyFeats, a place where you get points, rewards and encouragement from friends for all your day-to-day accomplishments.  I'm pretty partial to the feats in the "Romance" category, "Date Night" being my personal favorite <wink>.   So whether you're trying to eat more leafy green, mustering up the courage to meet with a professor, or getting into the habit of returning those phone calls from your extended family, DailyFeats can provide the motivation, encouragement, and incentives you need to actually see those goals come to fruition.  Monique over at DailyFeats has been so kind as to set up a promo code just for you, my beloved readers.  Sign up for DailyFeats and get 50 bonus points by using the promo code yesweretogether50.

Well, after my "feel-good" moment with DailyFeats, I had my "Yes, We're Together." moment with a new friend, L. Martin Johnson Pratt.  I noticed him from across the room--but not so much him as the message emblazoned across his chest: I LOVE BLACK WOMEN.  I have got to get one of those t-shirts for my husband! I thought to myself, so  I walked over to say hello.
"I love your shirt! Where did you get it? I want to get one for my husband."
"Thanks.  But, see, if you get your husband the I LOVE BLACK WOMEN shirt he'll want you to get the I LOVE BLACK MEN SHIRT." 
Another blogger who I'd recently met was standing nearby and started chuckling.
“Um…yeah…uh…no. I don’t think so.”
About five minutes and three tweets later Martin understood my response and we laughed about it when we ran into each other again a few minutes later.  During lunch we chatted about our respective backgrounds with relation to life and work and before parting ways he added: "But I definitely want to connect with you about the shirt because you'll never believe who stops me on the street all the time and asks me where they can get the shirt--"
“White guys?  Yeah, I’m not surprised at all.”

This Weekend: UNC Charlotte's Multicultural Leadership Conference

I know the state of North Carolina is in this week's headlines for other undesirable reasons, but I wanted to let you know about a conference I'll be attending this weekend, the 10th Annual Multicultural Leadership Conference hosted by the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC).

This regional conference draws half of its attendees from UNCC and the other half from other schools in the area (In fact, I remember seeing fliers for this conference when I was a student in Chapel Hill!).  UNCC's Center for Leadership Development and Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) jointly organize the conference and this year anticipates 200 student leaders (including "non-traditional students") and their advisors for a day of training in the areas of leadership, diversity and ethics.

Speakers selected for the conference reflect this year's theme: L.E.A.P. Into Your Community (Learn Empower Act Produce) -- individuals who found a way to address an issue in their community and made a difference.  The overall conference goal is for students to learn about being an effective college leader, how to carry those leadership skills over into "the real world" after they graduate, and to equip students with tools to do so.  I'll be giving an afternoon talk about interracial relationships, framed largely by some of the topics I've written about and the site's mantra, "challenge the assumptions."

Yesterday I had the pleasure of speaking with Ted Lewis, Assistant Director for Sexual/Gender Diversity at the MRC who conveyed that "the students are super excited about your talk and feel that it's an important topic that needs to be discussed."  After going over some more basic, pedestrian, logistics for the weekend, Ted added: "So, yeah, everything is fair game, except -- steer away from asking for money."

Of course I busted out laughing over the phone.

"What?" I replied. "Asking money from the students?!"  Ted then proceeded to tell a "well-see-what-had-happened-was" story about a prior event where a speaker encouraged students to donate money to a specific charity.  "It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, but that wasn't what the program was about."

So feel free to leave any thoughts or ideas (or even questions) in the comments section.  And if you are a student attending the conference, please leave a note!  I look forward to connecting with you this Saturday, and you can rest assured that I'll leave my collection plate at home.