Tapilosophy: Gregory Hines to Jane
On Race Relations
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Context: In this second installment of Gregory Hines’ emails to me, looking at the recent situations in Charleston, SC; North Charleston, SC; Staten Island, NY; Ferguson, MO; Stand Your Ground; The Confederate Flag; and race relations in the United States in general—I’ve probably missed some major ones—here’s some of what Hines wrote on the subject.
Subject:Much needed feedback………
Date:Monday, 29 May 2000, 13:26:00
I say fuck all that shit baby… “our tap… their tap… black tap… white tap… black women tappers… white women tappers”… Fuck it all Jane… We're the ones who’ve gotta stop buying into it all… just by giving credence, we help perpetuate the bullshit…
I know it's all real and loaded with history to back it up, but I don't want to be a part of it anymore… in the end, we all just wanna tap… ‘cause we love it… and nobody knows that better than you…
I'm embracing all tappers and all tapping… If you’ve got the shoes and you wanna do it… I'm behind you!!!
All that racial shit is boring anyway…
To: Jane Goldberg
From: Gregory Hines
Subject: Reviewing reviewers reviews
Date:Sunday, 12 Jan 2003, 19:12:56
I remember as a young boy in the 1950s how much I loved and looked forward to seeing “The Amos and Andy Show” on TV every week. I remember how much my parents enjoyed the show, and how much we, as a family, would watch and laugh, especially at the Calhoun character. And then, all of a sudden the show was taken off the air. There was a growing feeling amongst the new young NAACP Negroes, that the show was not only denigrating, but not respectful of the New Negro. As the years went by many Black stars, most notably Louis Armstrong, were criticized for what was labeled their Uncle Tom ways. In recent years, Sammy Davis’ place in black entertainment history has suffered a similar fate.
Was I surprised to see Bojangles and the Nicholas Brothers singled out for ridicule in “Noise/Funk”? No for Bo. Yes for Harold and Fayard. Could I understand where it was coming from where both are concerned? Yes, of course.
Each generation (be it black or white) (Remember Molly Goldberg's TV show?) looks back, and without really being aware of what those who went before had to go through, does not hesitate to judge and sometimes condemn many who found a way to be successful within the existing racist system.
Editor's note: I sent Gregory a review of "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk" and the following was his response.
To: Jane Goldberg
Subject:Reviews and Reviewers
The review of “Noise/Funk” was fun to read. It brought me back to the thrills I felt going to see the show at the Public, and Ambassador theaters. How amazing the dancing was… Savion’s choreographic leap. How much I was moved by the show. How proud I was that the show couldn't be denied its Broadway run. (Many a Broadway producer told me during its Public run that the show was way too raw for the White Way audiences.) How truly Black “Noise/Funk” was… How happy I was that Savion and George collaborated and how entertained and informed white audiences were gonna be from that wonderful collaboration. (Editorial note; Glover and Wolfe are collaborating on a new version of Sissle and Blake’s “Shuffle Along” for Broadway.)
I remembered how I cried when those “Steel Worker” men had worked so hard all day... then gotten dressed to go out and try to have some fun… only to be beaten down by a mob of whites… and then go get dressed for work again and go back to that amazing steel worker set on stage. Every time I saw that show I cried during that number… I remembered how I laughed and got angry during the “Taxi” number, recalling how I would've had to hide in the shadows while Pam [Hines’ wife at the time] would get us a cab at night because if I tried to get one for us they would pass me by… or if the cab driver saw us standing together they would pass us by… I remember how brilliant I thought Jeffrey Wright was in the show.
As I read her review of the “Slave Ships” number, I remembered how silent I was as I heard Ann Duquesnay sing the names of all those slave ships, with Savion sitting in that cramped space at the bottom of the boat, me visualizing hundreds of other slaves alongside, above and below him. I remembered going to the African-American Museum in Detroit, and seeing an installation of their exact replica of the bottom of the slave ship, and how many Africans it crammed up against each other… and how many died…
I read her positive review of Baakari’s lynching number and remembered how angry I felt as I sat in the darkened theater and watched another black man hang.
I read where she didn't feel Savion was an actor and I laughed, knowing full well that he played everything from an African slave, to a young Negro heading north, to a dope addict, and many other characters in between. Work that had earned him a Tony nomination for best actor in a musical, along with the one for choreography. (The dope number had me angry too, as I, once again, thought of how the white man sent the drugs right into the black neighborhoods to wreak the havoc intended on black families.)
Hey Jane… I could go on and on… but what I'm telling you is that what was going down on those stages of the Public and Ambassador theaters (and now all over the country) was the most amazing telling of the story of black folks in America… all done with TAP SHOES on. Yeah, “Da Beat” was a part of it, but only to help it in the telling, lure the whites who think they know what “Da Beat” is… the old American Bandstand “It's got a good beat, so I give it a 95” crowd!!! Yes, she reviewed it, but she couldn't feel it, and she had no idea what was really going on. She had no conception of what was there to be felt… not really Jane.
But thanks again for sending me those pieces about our flawed genius. Really did enjoy reading ‘em.
Gregory went to High School of Performing Arts with, among other people, Bernadette Peters and his good buddy Bobby Bongaard, a beautiful singer who Gregory remained friends with.
To: Jane Goldberg
From: Gregory Hines
Bobby (and his parents, Hal and Kay Bongaard) showed me a love and friendship when we were 12… 13… 14 that had a very powerful impact on my life… That love and friendship surely kept me from believing the “Muslim Preachers” who were at that time (late 50s) populating the black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, talking about how “White folks are Blue-Eyed Devils”
… Well, I, thanks to Bobby and his family, knew better… And that Muslim shit went right past me and on into the minds of many of my neighborhood brothers and sistas, who, unfortunately, didn't have anyone like Bobby in their lives to show ‘em the love and the Truth…
Thanks to Valerie Baloga for help with transcription.Newer Gregory Emails Posts »« Older Gregory Emails Posts