Play provides opportunity for talk about manhood

Play provides opportunity for talk about manhood
October 26
08:00 2017

Following the stage production of “The Legend of Buster Neal” by the North Carolina Black Repertory Company last weekend, more than three dozen men, including elected officials, scholars, clergy, and community leaders, sat down to discuss the issues facing young black men across the country and right here in our community.

The two-hour drama, set in modern-day Louisiana tells the story of four generations of African-American men and the issues each generation had to endure over time. The production, which features an all African-American male cast, raises the question: What is the true definition of manhood in the African-American community?

Written and directed by Jackie Alexander, award winning playwright and NCBRC artistic director, the production served as the perfect prelude to a powerful open conversation at Little Theatre on Sunday evening. In the play, a civil rights activist reappears to lend some advice to his great-great grandson who is headed down the wrong path.

After the 3 p.m. show on Sunday, Oct. 22, Dr. Trae Cotton, vice chancellor for student affairs at Winston-Salem State University, sat down with City Council Member Derwin Montgomery, and longtime community activist and city native Ben Piggott to get their thoughts on the production and how it relates to real life.

Dr. Cotton started the conversation by asking the panelists about the concept of love and how it relates to masculinity. He said often men are taught not to show emotions.
Cotton said, “We’re talking about the intimate but not about our emotional state. We’re taught as men not to show love, not to show affection, what do you think about that?”

Piggott, who currently serves as the supervisor at Carl Russell Sr. Recreation Center and has served as a father figure for young men in the community for more than 30 years, agreed with Dr. Cotton’s statement but noted often love can be shown in different ways and sometimes that means just coming forward with the cold, hard truth.

“Sometimes you just have to be truthful with a child. You say it with a way of compassion but you have to let them know that you’ve been there,” said Piggott. “You have to let them know the truth, then that child will be able to relate to you.”

Montgomery, who represents the East Ward and is part owner of The Chronicle, agreed as well. He said society teaches black males that showing emotion is a bad thing. He said growing up in a two-parent household, although his father didn’t show love in the traditional way, they never questioned how much he loved and cared for them.

“When we look at the broader society and the world we live in, the demand on men is not something that is new and it has a deeper historical connotation in terms of what we see is being required of black men,” continued Montgomery. “The fact that it was an expectation as a black man no matter what was said or done to you, you had no right or privilege to be able to speak back to a white person who disrespected you.
“I think part of that translates over to how we see male masculinity today. We’re still dealing with the psychological impact of how black men had to be sensitized to the environment they lived in.”

Along with the approval of Dr. Cotton, Council Member Montgomery and Piggott, “The Legend of Buster Neal” also received rave reviews from others in the audience. Local published author and community activist Antonio Stevenson brought six young men from his mentoring program, My Brother’s Second Chance, with him to see the play.

Stevenson, whose life was headed down the wrong path while he was a star athlete at Winston-Salem State University before he turned things around, said the production gave the boys he mentors an image to go along with the stories he tells them on a regular basis.

“The Legend of Buster Neal” will be playing at the Little Theatre Oct. 26, 27 and 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. After the show on Oct. 29, N.C. Rep. Edward Hanes Jr. will lead an open discussion.

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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