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Malcolm, my son.

Cast

Amina. African American woman. Late 30s, early 40s. A single head of household. Her son has been away at college. She is an aged militant who has been worn but not defeated by dealing with the necessities of daily life.

Malcolm. A 21-year-old African American male. Amina's son. Intelligent but emotionally troubled. Ambivalent about his father and their non-relationship. Growing into what is supposed to be his transition to manhood and grappling with how to successfully actualize this struggle.

Production Notes

The male actor should be "gay & proud" (i.e, out of the closet) and should not be a heterosexual actor pretending to be gay.

If professional lighting is available, each time the characters "cut" to re-begin the confrontation, the lights should get slightly brighter until they are full up after the last "cut." Because the play is in verse, the actors should be directed to bring as much emotional resonance to their voicings as possible; that is, they don't have to "play like." this is a naturalistic confrontation. The actors should employ a great deal of "body English" and movement in the delivery of their lines.

The play is to be done as an encounter between the audience and the actors as well as an encounter between a mother and her son. It is important that the actors be responsive to the audience and, when they address the audience, that they actually engage individuals in the audience rather than simply looking at or speaking in the direction of the audience.

(When the lights come up, Amina and Malcolm are facing each other, a chair between them, neither one moving. A second chair is off to stage rear, left.)

Malcolm

(Softly, tentatively) Hello.

Amina

Hello. Is that what you say?

(She wants to move to him, but does not.)

What will you tell me this gray afternoon? What marks are on your chest? What spear has been thrust into your side? What do you have to show? What do you have to hide? What light shines in your eyes? What shame do you deny? And what will you expect of me this moment? Should I hold you? Is there any embrace that can hold you? Should I just kiss you lightly on the cheek? A quick peck perhaps, something that will not keep You anchored to me? Or maybe even a gigantic hug? Or should I just wait quietly and see? What you are, what you have become? What you And what the world have made of my son?

Malcolm

Hello, But not like before. Today I have come to leave you forever. Though I will still be your child, I have come to announce that now I am me, And just me being me will hurt you, Not that I want to hurt you Or hurt me. It's just when children become adults Parents are sometimes hurt. Hello. But never again like before.

Amina

How was it before?

Malcolm

Remember when I came running in the kitchen My hand dripping blood? I had smashed my finger With a rock when I was trying to bust a marble On the sidewalk and the whole tip Of my finger was loose and hanging... Remember?

Amina

How can I forget? How can I not remember seeing the redness Of your blood falling everywhere and My own efforts not to panic, and My not knowing what to do And wrapping your hand in a towel And driving like crazy to the hospital And watching them sew your finger Back together? How can I forget?

Malcolm

(He holds up his hand as she talks. When she finishes, he points his forefinger to her and she reaches out her forefinger. They touch over the chair. Just fingertips. And they laugh, the chair between them.) Hello.

Amina

(Drops her hand, steps back.) You don't remember when you were conceived? No, of course not. How could you? How could you remember that night Or those many mornings after? How can a child remember what the mother Will never forget?

Malcolm

(He smiles for the first time. Chuckles.) I was nothing but energy in the universe, Spirit pulsating, waiting for the creator To give me form, waiting for a woman And a man to snatch me in a moment of ecstasy, To reach into an intensity and transform My energy into a warm-blooded mass, Laser burn a hole in the spirit atmosphere, Open a flesh window through which I could crawl. And that's how I climbed inside of you. I was born to you because I was cruising Through that night when you were with that man When you were wet and he was stiff And your sweat-gleaming torsos were slipperily Connected together, joined in ritual union And yall was so beautiful I had to choose That moment to climb through from the other side Into this dimension of time and being. You didn't make me. I chose you. I chose both of you.

Amina

How can a baby choose its parents?

(Smiles. She is amazed at the perceptions being dropped by Malcolm - perceptions she has never considered before, but perceptions that are both daring and sensible.)

Malcolm

No. (Correcting her) Really, the question is How can parents choose a child? At conception, At that moment, you have no idea where you are. At that moment everything is out of control. Even if you are trying to have a child, still You have no way of choosing anything. All you can Do is open the window. You have no way of knowing who will come Flying into the womb.

Amina

(Sits. Smoothes her dress. Thinks a moment, then looks over at Malcolm, who is still standing, has not moved.)

How do you ... How does your ... your being ... I mean as infinite energy You don't yet have a body, you don't have a brain, A mind, nothing. How do you ... how can you choose? How can you possibly choose anything? You didn't exist before. You weren't anything how could you ...?

Malcolm

Some realities we choose, and ... Some realities we submit to. Perhaps choose is a wrong word. The window was open. I was shooting by. The creator created the coincidence. I just submitted. You're talking about nature. I'm talking about the supernatural.

Amina

Is this what they have taught you in school?

Malcolm

They would never teach me to be me. They can never give me identity.

Amina

(Proudly) Where did you get it then? From where came this insight into the unseen?

Malcolm

Ultimately, from you ... And ...

(He hesitates, as if he were about to say something dangerous or possibly distasteful.)

And from all of us, our various histories, What we did, what we didn't, From when I really listen Listen to our music. Yes, especially that, Even though it is true I still don't know Our music the way I will when I am older. Ultimately, it will come from that, Or at least that is from where I think My deepest knowledge of self will surface, Gushing out of our music. It's just a feeling I have, not knowledge, Nothing I've rationally deduced, something I've intuited even though I've yet to learn To fully trust my feelings.

(Pause. As he says this next line, he touches Amina's shoulder. At first she returns his touch, but quickly withdraws her hand when she hears about Malcolm's father.)

From our music comes a lot of the unknown, And from you and from man, That man: your man, my man, Rudy, as he is named, Cowboy as he was called in the street, Those seldom times he was here, and even Briefly Chimarenga, the warrior, the resistance Leader, the six shooter, the sperm shooter Your man, your lover My man, my father From you, Amina From Cowboy From history ...

(He pauses, then steps away from her briefly before speaking to her over his shoulder.)

Did you ever go looking for him after he left, Or did you just wait to see if he would come back?

(He does not wait for her answer. She does not give a verbal answer, but hugs herself, remembering the loneliness, and drops her head in silence.)

I looked for him. I looked for him with all the hatred ...

(He turns and looks at her. She senses his stare during the pause, looks up, returns the look briefly, then looks away, but then quickly goes back to his eyes. They lock eyes.)

With all the hatred you taught me, like you, I hated my man.

Amina

(Looks away.) Actually, I hated him because I loved him, But you can't understand that, can you? So did you ever find ... Did you ever find him?

Malcolm

You know I did. I am he. I found my man Inside of me ...

(She gets up, looks at him, and starts to step to him. Stops. Steps tentatively. He has not moved.)

Mama, I must tell you something.

(His voice stops her just as she reaches to embrace him.)

Amina

It must be serious. You're calling me mama In such a serious tone. It is serious, Isn't it?

Malcolm

Yes.

Amina

(Sits again. Waits. Looks at him.)

Will you tell me, or must I pull it out of you?

Malcolm

(Softly) I'm going to tell you.

(She claps her hands.)

But I don't know how.

Amina

(Shakes her head, anticipating something awful.)

What is it?

Malcolm

It's really two things.

Amina

(Tries to make a joke.)

Oh, well I'm relieved. At first I thought You had just one terrible tale to tell, but It's easier to take now that you tell me There are two tales to be told. Or do I understand you correctly?

Malcolm

Yes, yes, you understand.

Amina

Should we talk some evasion, talk About the dog's puppies, your grades, The latest book I've read ... you know How people do when it's time To talk seriously?

(Points to the audience.)

Should we provide them some entertainment, Some non-critical, covertly political propaganda That they can believe is free of political lessons Like we used to believe cigarettes and sex Were a safe high we could indulge day and night Without affecting our lives? Shouldn't we at least give a disclaimer? After all this is a play, And plays are not supposed to be too real, Too real.

Malcolm

Maybe. I don't know.

Amina

You do know, You know unhappiness has a desk in your heart And is a late-night-working fool. You know you're looking for answers To questions you're afraid to ask. You know that you question The reason for your birth, and sometimes wish That you were something or someone else Other than who you are And you know most audiences have been trained To be supremely uninterested In confronting this about themselves. You know.

Malcolm

Cut! Let's start this over.

(He exits. Amina gets up and stands next to the chair, waiting for her son to come home. Malcolm enters. Cheerfully.)

Hey, what's up?

Amina

Malcolm, Malcolm, you're home.

(Crosses quickly to hug and kisses him.)

How's school? How're you feeling? Are you hungry? What do you want to eat? Can I fix you something? Do you have a girlfriend yet? Does your father know you're here? Do you know your father? Would you like it if I didn't ask so many questions? Do you know why I ask so many questions? Do you know all the questions Black women have For Black men? Do you have answers for even half of our questions? Like why can't we be friends, friends forever? What's happening to us? Do you remember your father? Do you remember the few years he was here And we were happy? Do you believe my version of our family history?

Do you understand how terribly hard it has been For me to raise you by myself, and keep Myself together? Do you know all the things a Black mother Will do to make sure her son becomes a man? Are you using your penis yet? What color is your love? Will you make some woman happy? Are you going to be just like your father? Will I have to hate you? What ...

Malcolm

Cut! Let's try it one more time.

Amina

And why do you want to cut now? Do questions bother you? Should I speak in statements, declarations, Petitions, supplications, jokes, sly asides, Demure completions of your every desire, son? Is it not enough for me to be your mother? Do you also need me to be your emotional servant?

Malcolm

Cut, because the world does not understand, Cut, because this audience is confused ...

Amina

And?

Malcolm

And I'm confused too.

(He exits and re-enters. He starts to speak, but can not find words. Suddenly Malcolm turns to the audience and begins to speak. As he does, Amina freezes. Malcolm steps to face the audience directly.)

I'm trying to figure out how to talk to her, How to tell her the truth about myself. Of course, part of the problem is figuring out What's the truth and then finding the words To talk the truth.

Amina

(Amina steps to Malcolm's side and speaks to the audience.)

Sometimes we just don't have the language We need to deal with the world. Did you notice, at first, how everything I said was a question?

Malcolm

Do you know how much it feels like We're always being questioned, our manhood Is always being challenged?

Amina

There are no words for liberating talk In the master's lexicon. Part of the reason Men find it so hard to understand women Is that men don't accept women making words, Making concepts, making language. So even to express myself I must speak With male words.

Malcolm

The first question some of you will ask Is, How can words be male? Watch.

(He exits and re-enters.)

Hello, I'm home.

(They hug.)

God, I'm glad to be home. This semester was a bitch!

(They pause, but continue hugging each other.)

Amina

(Turns to face the audience.)

Now, why does something hard and difficult Have to be referred to as a bitch?

(Amina tooks at Malcolm.)

Malcolm

Ain't that a bitch! I never thought of that.

Amina

There you go again.

Malcolm

Ain't that a bull, I mean, ain't That a dick, shit, I don't know what to say?

Amina

We're trying to work this out. Let's start again, okay?

(They part. Amina smiles at the audience. Malcolm re-enters.)

Malcolm

Hi, mom!

Amina

Hello, son.

(They embrace and kiss quickly on the lips. Hug each other with glee.)

And how long has it been that you've been gone? Only five or six months really, Yet it all seems, so long. How's momma's man?

Malcolm

(Breaks the embrace. To the audience) Now is she talking to me asking me about my father? Or is she talking to me but thinking I am my father, You know, like seeing my father in me? Is she talking to me and addressing me in a sort of I wish you were, I want you to be "a man" Sort of way? I mean it's deep.

Amina

It's not really that deep. It's not really a sexual thing. It's ...

Malcolm

Since when is being a Black man not a sexual thing?

Amina

All right, all right, it's just that, well You know how mothers want their sons to be men.

Malcolm

Yes, I know and that's exactly the point: Yall want us to be men And at the same time yall hate the way Black men be ...

Amina

We don't hate Black men.

Malcolm

Let me finish. I'm not saying yall hate Black men. I'm saying yall hate the way most of us End up being. Yall hate what we become Under the knife of the world.

Amina

(To the audience)

Now you see, here we go back into that male language Mess: "the knife of the world"! Next we're going to get to women castrating men, Women accusing men of being eunuchs ...

Malcolm

No, not women castrating men, The world castrating Black men, and by the world I really mean this society, this society Cutting our manhood off and making it impossible For us to be men.

Amina

Can't you be a man without a penis?

Malcolm

Get serious.

Amina

I am serious, sunrise serious, A bold break for something completely different.

Malcolm

(Breaks character.)

Hold it. Hold it. Wait a minute. What's going on here?

Amina

Male language. Male insecurity,

Malcolm

Female anger. Female insecurity.

Amina

What do you mean "female insecurity"? I know I'm a woman.

Malcolm

How?

Amina

How what?

Malcolm

How do you know you're a woman? And before you say, "Because, I had you," Let's ask the question: Does having a child Make you a woman, or conversely does not Having a child mean you're not a woman?

Amina

Cut! Let's do this again.

(To the audience as Malcolm exits) You see how deep this stuff gets? The male/master's language.

Malcolm

(From offstage)

You know it's not all a question of male language. Some of this stuff is about more than language; It's about the reality of social relationships, Even when we don't say a word to each other.

Amina

Malcolm, shut up and let's do this.

Malcolm

(Enters.) Hi. God, I'm glad to be home.

(They embrace, Look at each other wordlessly, and release from the embrace. Malcolm sits in the chair.)

Amina

What's wrong?

Malcolm

I need to tell you something.

Amina

Okay.

(Crosses to him. Touches his shoulder, gently.) Take your time. It's all right

Malcolm

I don!t know how to say this.

Amina

That's because you don't have language, Not for the deep things in relationships. You have power words but no connecting words, No way to talk about what's inside yourself Without making yourself sound like an insect, An abomination that should be cast into the fire.

Malcolm

You're assuming that this is something bad.

Amina

I'm assuming that if a man has a hard time Saying something then it's probably A personal revelation which is hard for him to make Precisely because he thinks that the revelation Will mark him as being less than a man. And what man wants to be seen as less than a man? So, unless it's like the rare moments When you are helpless in a lover's arms, Spent, caught in the throes of the after-tremble, At that one milli-moment of ultimate vulnerability When you know how weak you are and simultaneously Also recognize how warmly secure You feel wrapped in your lover's embrace ... It is usually only then that you own up to those deep Revelations of vulnerableness. I know that Every lover who has ever held a trembling man A vulnerable, trembling tears-in-his-eyes, Whispering, babbling, post-ejaculation man ... Every lover knows that. You see all it is is that you don't have anything At this moment but what you perceive to be weakness, Weak words to describe yourself, and you are ashamed.

Malcolm

I'm not ashamed!

Amina

You're afraid.

Malcolm

I'm not afraid!

Amina

You're confused.

Malcolm

I'm not confused!

Amina

You're a man.

Malcolm

I'm not ...

(Catches himself.)

It's not like that.

Amina

No, not when you conquer someone, Not when you're just doing it to reach your climax, Your pitiful little moment of pleasure ...

Malcolm

(To the audience)

You see how she talks!

Amina

Am I lying? Don't you conquer your lovers? Don't you just ride them like a jockey?

And if not that, Aren't you afraid to admit how it is When you're not conquering, When you're in love? That is, if it happens, because It doesn't always happen for you all. Sometimes you never achieve love, Only mastery. Malcolm, you know precisely what I mean, And you know how precisely I'm correct.

Malcolm

This is getting out of hand.

Amina

Why, because you're not in control? Male language/master's language - Isn't that it, lack of control? "Out of hand"? Ha, you mean out of your control. Hold your head up and answer me.

Malcolm

Yes.

Amina

But you know - and even as I say this, I recognize that most likely You don't know, but you should know, And for your survival's sake you must learn - You're no less a man when you're not in control.

Malcolm

We don't control this society. We don't control space ships. We didn't control slave ships. We don't control mean green. We don't ...

Amina

Stop the litany of what you don't, What you ain't got, What you can't get, What you'll never have! You have life, and no matter How severely circumscribed You also have spirit, energy, imagination, An ability to create brilliant colors Even when enchained in the dankest dungeon. You don't have to be simply a billpayer. You have paid dues; you can be Anything, everything, No matter what it is you perceive You lack or what you think they have So much more of than you. They wish they had the lips with Which your creative history kisses life.

Malcolm

What good are music and pyramids Of by gone years in the face of the knife?

Amina

My son, my son.

Malcolm

Who's not a man, not a man. I'm not a man.

Amina

Is that what you wanted to tell me? Is that the thing that was so difficult to say?

Malcolm

No. It's something else.

Amina

What else?

Malcolm

When I found myself... I mean when I found my father ...

Amina

(She catches his meaning and completes his thought.)

You found yourself.

Malcolm

Yes! Exactly. We played a game of checkers In the barbershop and I realized All the soft parts of him were dead Or buried so deep that those softnesses Seldom saw the light of love's touch. He was a genius at camouflaging His emotional amputations. In his eyes I saw Black holes Where everything went in But nothing came out. I think he had been hurt By his self-perceived inadequacies, Maimed by his personal assessments Of powerlessness.

Amina

Did you also see that some men know better Than to fall into the trap of hating themselves For not being what they think a man should be? The trap was not the inadequacy of the man But the impossibleness of the definition of manhood. The musicians know, those old blues singers And jazz men with their horns in their hands ... No hope of fortune or fame but dedicated nonetheless To the creation of an artform That the majority of society disdains. Yes, they knew and actualized, knew That there was another way to be a man; And created an oh so beautiful language They simply called "the music," An impossibly gifted language In which tongue they could express feelings English can never express. Prez's tear-tattooed tenor rising In what some would consider feminine sensualness, A delicacy otherwise never, never ever Associated with being a man, or even swaggering Lee Morgan in all his macho hardness Being tender as an azalea petal As he blew a ballad, and God, the beauty Of Dear Clifford, or Fats Navarro ... I wish You had known him, his virtuosity and bravura As a trumpeter, and you know his nickname Was Fat Girl. And then there is the sensitiveness Of the man I most remember, gentle, Gentle Eric Dolphy, his expressiveness So open, so free, so full of feeling, or Charles Lloyd licking the sky in trance Meditation with crying eyes transforming pain Into the beauty of majestic music, and Of course Trane, a magnificent man of such Forceful gentleness ...

Malcolm

I have not really heard them yet. I'm still very young, so I can not yet really know These men you remember with such reverence.

Amina

These are men. Black men not defined by their genitals Or the depth of their pockets, But by their spirits and creative acts. Black men, I tell you, Men who knew themselves And who shared the breadth and depth Of their manhood. With the whole of this world In a language of their own, A language they created. And indeed the very creation of their language Was also the instrument needed Not only to manifest But, indeed, also to actualize Their true manhood.

Malcolm

You really believe that, don't you? You really believe a musician is a man?

Amina

No, you misunderstand me. Not simply the act of creating music But the creation of language ... You can make someone else's music, You can make musical entertainment Without creating language, But ...

Malcolm

And does what you're talking about Apply to women, too?

Amina

Yes, of course. Except women are less likely to be listened to, And we all know the rare exceptions. But let's not change the subject. We were talking about knowing manhood And how both you and your father Failed to know and love your own manhood. I want you to live your potential manhood, Know it, live it like your father never did Like Rudy never did Like Chimarenga almost did Like Cowboy ...

Malcolm

Cowboy didn't know.

Amina

He never realized, Except in extremely self-destructive ways, The potential of his manhood. He never knew.

Malcolm

No one taught him And he never learned; that's What I'm trying to learn.

Mama, I want to be a man. I don't want to be like my father; I wish Cowboy had known.

He hated himself. He hated the weak parts of himself. He hated that he could not be all the man You wanted him to be.

Amina

It was never about all the man You think that I wanted him to be. Instead it was always about Not being able to be like what he thought A man should be. Don't you know that I know you can't be white.

Malcolm

You mean, that I can't be a man.

Amina

No, I mean that you can't be white Or, rather, that you shouldn't be white, Because we both know that daily There are Black men out there Proving how coldly white they can be.

But this is my point: What you're calling your manhood Is just some projection of being a master, A conqueror, a barbarian on a ship With a gun and a whip Sailing the seven seas and conquering the world.

But, my dear son, You don't have to be that to be a man. It is enough to be your creative self, To be a vibration of the universe Manifesting energy through real time. That's enough.

I know America Will never leave you alone, But it is not the knife that is the killer, It is your acceptance of their definitions. Once you accept what they mean by man Then you're doomed never to be able to be a man Simply because you can't really be a human being And at the same time be like their definition Of man; A man should never strive to be the master Of another human being.

Malcolm

But is not there a way for me to be in control Of my own life? That's all. That's all I want - To control my own life.

Amina

The power to control is tyranny. The power to create is life. Discipline yourself, yes - but control What is that? In all the history of the world, What has that ever been but art excuse For militarism, for fascism, Sometimes a seductive and seemingly Logical fascism, but rule by force Nonetheless in the name of The greater good?

Malcolm

You make it sound so easy, too easy, But we both know one can not eat creativity. Creativity will not keep the rain and wind From your hair, out of your eyes -- And besides, everyone wants what everyone Else has.

Amina

Be honest, do you, Do you really want what everyone else has?

Malcolm

Yes, sometimes.

Amina

Which would you rather: to be rich Or to be in love, surrounded by And supported by those who love you And whom you love?

Malcolm

Both!

Amina

Not really ... because To be rich, especially in this society, Means to impoverish others. The wheels of your shiny ride Are purchased by the bared and bunioned Feet of others, your mansion At the expense of thousands of homeless ...

Malcolm

That is all so didactic. I'm not talking about hurting anyone. I'd just like to be comfortable.

Amina

Your comfort is expensive. Just the energy it takes to maintain your comfort Means starvation for others, not to mention Pollution of the land and atmosphere. But you know this as well as I do, Maybe without detail but from the lash of history You know this; You know how this country was raised, Whose broken and flogged back, whose blood Vampired, and not just ours, Native Americans ... Literally millions and millions and millions Of us, millions and millions, more millions Than it is sane to count or think about. Just like matter, just like energy, Richness is neither created nor destroyed Just transferred and transformed. You already know this. (She pauses, looking at him.) You are testing yourself, teasing Me. What you really want is to be happy, healthy, And surrounded by people you like, To travel in peace And have time and space to live Howsoever you envision life. Given the choice of making an extra dollar Or spending an hour with someone you love, I know love would be your choice ...

Malcolm

That all sounds nice, except our loved ones Are poor, we need that dollar.

Amina

No! That is precisely my point: What we need is a different society. Dollars won't make us happy; Dollars will never make us happy. We are human beings:

We need each other to be happy, Only each other living productive And creative lives; living full out Imaginations blowing for all we Know and can learn, all we can Dream and conceive, Like life has always meant Before machine makers enchained our labor. Do you understand?

Malcolm

You always talk these theories, Dazzling as the sun, and though I feel Them and know the truth of them, They are so far away. I am here On the ground struggling in the here And now, struggling to make my way, To find my way. I've got economic Dragons to slay and your dream words Are a flimsy sword, an inadequate shield.

Amina

You're slipping back into the male language Of militarism. Besides, you know, Where has your male rejection of this vision Gotten you? Are you happy, any happier Trampling on people, denying What's in your heart? I don't think so. I think the reason you've listened this long Is because inside you're empty, You're searching for food and shelter. (Pauses.) The truth is that you must be a warrior: The world can not be healed unless you stop Those who are raping us. These mad, mad people Must be forced up off us. I know that. My only insistence is that we be clear Why we are fighting and what our goals are, Be clear that we are rainbow warriors Calling a halt to coldness - emotional Coldness as well as the wintering Of the environment. And, simultaneously, In the process of resisting we are also rebuilding, By example and vision creating anew our humanity. If in the process of ending slavery We do not resurrect community, then in truth We will not have ended but rather merely transformed Our current slavery into a more sophisticated slavery, A slavery of another and more difficult Form. (She laughs.) I know, I know, I know. Sometimes I preach, but all of my wordiness Is just a deep longing to get through this phase Into a different dimension, into a space Where love is unmolested by systemic slaughter ...

Malcolm

The poor will always be amongst us.

Amina

Your quoting of the Bible sounds cynical.

Malcolm

We can't change human nature; there Will always be wrongdoing - rape, as you call it, Exploitation, inhumanity, always. Evil is eternal.

Amina

In particular terms, of course, in individual Human expression, of course, but for now I'm talking on a social level Systemic manifestations. Malcolm, don't believe so much of the master's Propaganda.

Malcolm

What do you mean?

Amina

Humans have been here for thousands and thousands Of years; only in the last century Has the planet itself been endangered By the actions of people. If we could live For millennia and not destroy the earth, Why should a mere four or five hundred Years be so destructive? Do you see we are talking both quantity And quality? If the quality of life Is maintained, then the quantity of life Can go on and on and on for thousands And thousands of years. But if the quality Of our living becomes rapacious, Then the quantity of our existence Will also diminish. This is a basic Karma, surely you understand.

Malcolm

Mama, I'm tired of talking about problems.

Amina

That's because you are basically a lover Of life and being forced to fight Places your life out of balance. But the truth, the awful truth, My dear son, is no matter how tired You are, these problems will not disappear Just because you do not deal with them; This life will force you to deal With problems - and the longer you delay The more difficult the dealing. (Pauses.) You know the most difficult dealing Will be learning to live together. We've been so thoroughly indoctrinated In exploitation, we've been slaves so long, That now we are experts on slavery, On slavery and little else, at least On a conscious level. Little else do we know How to do. Fortunately we still feel Other paths, other ways, but unfortunately We don't know how to travel those ways, So we are learning as we go, improvising, Figuring out how to fight on the one hand And how to love on the other. Yes, This world is tiring, but As the old folks counseled: Members, don't get weary, Don't get weary. (Pauses.) This is why love is so necessary: Love to heal our wounds, Love to rejuvenate us, massage The weariness away.

Malcolm

You say love so easily, And yet you are so alone, so without.

Amina

Malcolm, my son, Actualizing love will be no easier Than fighting our enemies. Indeed, Achieving love is probably an even deeper And more difficult struggle, especially Since we are all so flawed, some of us fatally, So terribly flawed.

Malcolm

(As he hears this, he turns very somber.) We are, as you say, So terribly flawed - fatally; In truth we are.

Amina

Whatever the truth, we can handle it. What is your name? Why do you think we named you Malcolm? You should be alive with energy And unafraid to transform yourself. Every time you recognize the truth Be what you are; whatever you are Just be that, choose truth - love the truth.

Malcolm

Suppose the truth is I'm not a man?

Amina

Male language again. The truth is you're alive. You are human. You can be beautiful No matter how ugly the rest of the world is. You can zoom beauty. You can touch people. You can sing. You can be all of that. And to be all of that is to be a man, Regardless of what and how the master is Or what this society forces you to swallow.

Malcolm

Hi! mom. This is your beautiful son, Malcolm, And I'm ... I'm gay. (He looks at Amina; she does not avoid his gaze. He is trying to shock her, trying to force her revulsion and rejection.) I love men. I swallow their seed. I put their dicks in my mouth, And in my ass. And yall always told me that a faggot Wasn't a man. So maybe I'm not a man. The Bible says I'm going to hell. The Koran says cut off my head. (She patiently waits for him to finish and continues to her gaze at him with her eyes of love. Malcolm softens and admits his terror.) It's so hard to find yourself When the only place it's safe to look Is in the shadows, When the only person you can really talk with Is another misfit.

Amina

(Moves to the chair slowly and sits.) I knew already. We've always known that some of our sons ...

Malcolm

Were not men. Are you saying that you always knew That I was not a man, that I could never be A man?

Amina

(Softly) This is not new.

Malcolm

I didn't hear you.

Amina

I said, this is not new. (They look at each other.) What is it you're waiting for me to do? Do you want me to act out? I can do that. Watch. Just give me a minute. (She lowers her head briefly, hand to forehead, obviously concentrating.)

Malcolm

What are you doing?

Amina

I'm watching television. I'm reading the daily paper and Ebony magazine. I'm putting relaxer in my hair. I'm putting on green contact lenses. Now I'm ready to hate you To curse you out ... (Suddenly she springs to her feet. She begins very quietly but builds in intensity and volume as she goes on.) You are pitiful. Pitiful. You hate yourself. You hate your father. You hate your manhood. The reason you love men Is because you can't be a man yourself, So you open your flesh to men, Like a woman does, taking men inside yourself Thereby coming as close to manhood as you can. What did Cowboy say to his son? Does Cowboy know his son is a punk? Did you tell your daddy you love men Because you hate men, because you hate him? Get out. Get out. (Trying to regain her composure.) I'm sorry, but I, I can't stand his. I can't love that you're not a man. And I don't know how you can stand yourself. Get out, just get away from me.

Malcolm

(He turns and begins to walk away slowly, then pauses.) I knew you would hate me.

Amina

I don't hate you. I pity you. You hate you.

Malcolm

Don't pity me. You made me. You raised me. Where do you think my love of men comes from? School? Ideas in books? White professors whispering Plato in my ear? Reading James Baldwin at night Looking for the juicy parts And finding homosexual love? The hatred in the mirror, The morning after as I brush my teeth And feel like I can't go the stain Of a man's cum off my tongue? The failed attempts to fuck a woman? Or should I just have done Like the man around the corner, the one who fixed Our air conditioner, the one with two kids and A very lovely wife, the man who one day jumped up And just left home to live with his male lover? Should I have taken you on that trip? Or should I have just gone and found my father And shot him down for being a dog?

Amina

Malcolm, don't say anymore. Don't say anymore, Just go away. Please go away. It'll be easier for you where nobody knows you And you can be something twisted.

Malcolm

(Malcolm tries to reach Amina. He crosses to her, wants to touch her, wants her to embrace him.) You're still my mother. I still love you.

Amina

(Strikes him forcefully on the chest in a fury.) Why can't you be a man? Why can't you be a man? Why can't you be a man? Why a freak? Why a faggot? Do you wear women's clothes: Pantyhose, lacy underwear, blouses, Slips, and lipstick? (She collapses momentarily in his arms. When he embraces her, she backs away, slapping him twice.) Be a man. Why you want to be a woman? We've got too many women now. What we need is men. We need men.

Malcolm

(Sarcastically) Thanks. I needed that!

Amina

You see, I can act as big a fool As anyone else, but I also have other emotional vectors To guide my living. (Long pause. They took at each other lovingly.) Malcolm, be careful, lest you're dead of AIDS Before the year is out, Infected by someone whom you think Loves you.

Malcolm

Safe sex.

Amina

Is that not somehow contradictory, Ironic, or at least paradoxical -- You need to protect yourself From your lover? You live in such a way That it is necessary to take precautions When you love someone. If that is the case Then where is the love?

Malcolm

We live in a time when love is at risk, When love is a risk.

Amina

And that ultimately is so sad Is it not? It is truly sad To live in a time When love is a risk.

Malcolm

Yes. But ... (He is at a loss for words. However, Amina cuts him off before he can collect his thoughts.)

Amina

And you know what is also sad about this age? As terrible as AIDS is, We women and our children, we Black women, Are the ones who are dying with no notice, No acknowledgment often, not even an obituary mention. It is we dying, we infected, we the carriers Passing on the illnesses of our times -- And ignored, not even included as raw statistics. Many of us die from related diseases But the counters don't even tally our deaths Much less treat our lives. I know it seems like I'm always talking woman talk But the silence around us is so incredible, So incredible ... (Silence, a long pause.) But you were going to say something, What?

Malcolm

I don't know.

(With a mixture of force and bewilderment) I'm alive. I'm me, what I am, What I sometimes wish I wasn't, What I am struggling to learn to accept. I'm here, in this time. I don't know. What else can I do?

Amina

Do you believe your great-great-grandfather Was a man?

Malcolm

What?

Amina

Your slave forefather, Was he a man?

Malcolm

Yes.

Amina

Think of the time he lived in, The conditions under which he was forced To find a way to manifeat his manhood, Cut off literally from land, from tongue/language, From self, castrated metaphorically And sometimes, indeed often times, castrated Literally. Think of him And what he faced, and the fortitude Of his manliness to overcome that To remain a man, be a man In an era of chattel slavery. Think of the immensity of that Struggle for wholeness, for manhood And know that you are the descendant Of men who have had to piece their manhood Together in the eye of the hurricane, Be self-surgeons sewing together their severed Members. Imagine that, Malcolm, my son. Rise above what you consider your limitations. If a slave could be a man Then certainly a free homosexual can. Okay. Cut.

(To audience)

Let's deal with this. Is homosexuality a sickness? Is it the sickness of white society Infecting us like so many people keep thinking? Let's assume that it is.

(To Malcolm)

Let's assurne you're sick and twisted. Even if we assume that, the real question remains: What are you going to do? You're here, on this planet, in this era, Whether we like you or not, Think you're normal or freakish, Healthy or sick, Whatever. The point is you're here And our responsibility to each other Is not to change each other But to help each other. Do you really believe that your sexuality Is a dysfuncionality? That you are father-famished and therefore Gay because of the absence of a male? Do you really believe that if your father were here You would not be gay? Do you really swallow that madness?

Malcolm

We are dysfuctional. We were never, well maybe only for a moment, But mainly we were never a whole family.

Amina

What can any of us, Oppressed and exploited, What can any of us Know of a fully functional nuclear family? When were we ever simply Husband/wife/children family Except in our extended Bonding defiance of the society that told us We were less than ourselves because We were not family units, and at the same time Were constantly tearing us asunder? Do you think we were family on auction block? In cotton fields and slave shack? And later in the ghettos And laboratory high rises? If you believe That you are the way you are Because of some social dysfunction In your family tree Then you are branding yourself pathological In the extreme as if night were all There was to your day.

Malcolm

Were there ever any other gay men in our family?

Amina

If you open the closet in the hall, If you root around in the corners of the attic, If you dig in the crevices of basements, Go to the old picture books And look into the eyes of our blood... The felt hat worn across that great aunt's eye With a man's tie dividing her breasts, The big-eyed youth hiding on the edge of the picture His hands clasped in his lap staring with terror At something way beyond the camera ... In the tear-strewn trail Of all those still-missing ones Who left home and disappeared Somewhere across the Rockies or into The soft belly of Europe, The cousin you never heard from again After he reached fifteen and left the church choir And had the beautiful voice That broke your heart to hear him Reluctantly sing goodbye, Or the one you only heard from through Occasional phone calls at odd times During some randomly selected decade... Like I said, this is nothing new. We just keep pretending we've never Dealt with all this before, pretending. But we are now no more sick than we've ever been during this so-journ In the wilderness of being forced to make do, Striving, although often valiantly failing, To create wholeness from the twisted scraps Of what's left after labor rape And racist assault on our human selves.

(Pauses.)

Do you understand?

Malcolm

Somewhat, somehow, some parts...

(He starts to say something but can not find the words.)

Cut.

Amina

No! Don't cut. Don't turn from the difficult. Don't cut, deal with it! Stop looking for alien blueprints When you have as birthright AU the tools you need to be, A chest full of all the sinew and nexus Needed to construct a whole human being. Don't cut. Deal! You ain't dead until you stop singing, And if you don't sing, Then you're not fully alive. Break past this tendency to surrender Just because living may mean choosing to die Rather than accepting and accommodating madness, And if not death, at least choosing A form of sanity that the status quo Will tell you is insanity. You make yourself less than a man When you choose to live with a chain on your mind, Your beautiful infinite spirit harnessed In the carcass of a negro, a dead thing Who stops thinking, stops creating In a confused and ultimately futile effort To reach detente with oppression.

(She laughs. Deeply)

Deal.

Malcolm

Cut!

Amina

(Disappointedly) Malcolm.

Malcolm

No, I'm ready.

(Smiles.)

I'm just going to do my entrance again.

Amina

Okay.

Malcolm

(Exits, then re-enters.)

Mama.

(He goes to her. They embrace.)

I have something to tell you.

Amina

Sit down, Malcolm. Wait, let me get a chair.

(She brings a chair from the rear and sits next to him.)

You want some coffee?

Malcolm

(Nervously) No.

Amina

You hungry?

Malcolm

No.

Amina

What is it?

Malcolm

I don't know how to say it.

Amina

Just say it.

Malcolm

I'm afraid you'll hate me.

Amina

I love you.

(Touches his face tenderly.)

Malcolm

Like you hate my father.

Amina

You are not your father. I love you.

Malcolm

You'll hate me like you hate him.

Amina

No.

(Pauses.)

I'm glad that you're releasing your fears, Telling me what teeth are at your throat, What's causing you to turn your head And seal your lips. I'm glad You're sharing fear, Because fear is the secret destroyer Of struggle, and the only solution Is shared strength. Alone, you can never be as strong Or as gentle, for that matter, as when You are intimate with someone With whom you share struggle; I'm glad, yes. Facing the debilitations of our own Deficiencies, all the major things we feel Are wrong with ourselves, and being Able to share that bitter drink With another, in effect Releasing the repressed self, That self so often branded ugly and Repulsive, the thing whose very removal Leaves a gapping open wound Sensitive and vulnerable to touch And hurt, and then too The bitterness of misuse By those close enough to smell the blood, Facing all of that and finding out, After we dry our eyes That those deformities were really only paper tigers, Props held fast in place by our refusal To clear the deck...

(Pauses.)

Much of this is so abstract. I know you, you're not your father. Besides his absence has hurt you too much For you to ever think of hurting anyone Like he hurt you.

Malcolm

They say it's a syndrome: Like father, like son.

Amina

In this case, I don't think so.

(Pauses.)

What is it?

Malcolm

What would you say if I told you I... I, umm... I'm gay.

Amina

(She looks at him. Touches him gently again.)

I would say be careful. I would say be strong. I would say be yourself, whatever it is. I would say find a language to express yourself, Your fullest self to all the people you love. I would say you can count on me. At least, that is what I would want to say. You know. I don't know if I would be strong enough To say that, but I would try. I would try to support you.

(Pauses.)

Are you saying that?

Malcolm

Yes.

Amina

I may not fully understand you, Malcolm, But I love you.

Malcolm

Thanks.

Amina

We don't have to talk anymore right now. Unless that's what you want to do.

Malcolm

How does it make you feel, Knowing your son is a sissy?

Amina

I think my son, Malcolm, Is a man. Can be a man. Must be a man. Must. Will have to challenge the wind Just to breathe. Challenge the way this country Is run just to be able to walk a beach Hand in hand with your lover. But then that is nothing new. Black men have always had to challenge this society In order to be.

Malcolm

Yes.

Amina

You understand what I'm saying?

Malcolm

Yes.

Amina

I hope you can have this talk with your father.

Malcolm

Cowboy is going to freak.

Amina

No, I don't think so. One thing about your father, he's street All up and down. He knows What the world is like, All the different ways human beings can be.

(Long pause.)

One thing I hope, I hope that you find A Black man to love you, someone With whom you can share both intimacy and struggle. You understand? Not that you can't love whomever you choose to love. It's just that it would really be good to be able To point to you as an example of Black manhood...

Malcolm

(Laughing, bitterly)

Yeah, people be pointing at me all right, But not as no example of Black manhood. You've seen me in the street, A young man whose effeminacy Made you wince because I so obviously Looked like what I am And it makes you uncomfortable.

Amina

Yes, and I've wondered how terrible Your torment must be To be the way you are, Knowing how cruelly streets Will callously treat you When you are like that... To see you young and defying All the social images Of young manhood you've been taught... I've seen you and wondered How I would see you If it was not you but Some other mother's child Whom I saw walking sideways Into the day, but defiant still, and, yes, Though I would rather you go a different way, Still, not only is this sway your walk, the walk You must walk if you are to be true to yourself, But also I have come to admire your bravery Your daring to be so out of step.

(Pauses. Turns to the audience.)

We are not just what society shapes us To be, we are also what we become, What we make of ourselves, and that is the most difficult knowledge to grasp. Movers, with their minds made up, Can make waves, waves which will Give motion to the ocean, Shake the ship of society and stitch a flag Out of song sent soaring into the atmosphere, Your smile a people's anthem.

(She starts a spontaneous dancing in place.)

Oh it feels so good to be a creative human being. Just the thought of self-determination Makes me dance. Yes, If you're looking for an answer Start with everything you can do And build up to doing everything you can't do now But want to do, everything. Do we have to do this again? Now that I think about it, Yes, surely, every day, every day, Every day we have to reach into ourselves, Find the sun, create the sheltering skies Under which we can live, And this god-light is inside the dark of self. Your brightest light is revealed Only when you open your deepest self, Give birth to yourself.

(The lights fade down. In the dark we hear Malcolm and Amina.)

Speak, Malcolm!

Malcolm

(Addresses the audience through the dark.)

Whether you, or me, or anyone else Can dig it or not, I exist. Whether you think I'm a freak Or I'm just another human being, I exist. No matter what you think, And for that matter, No matter what I think, I exist.

Amina

Yes, you exist.

Malcolm

And you're going to have to deal with this man.

Amina

(Laughs. Exits with Malcom.)

Go on. Malcolm, my son. My son - a man, yes. That's what men do. You force the world to make space for you. Yes. And you sing in your own tongue. Not the male master's language, But your own words fashioned to express Your own realities, Just as I will speak my tongue And will reach for our tongues to be entwined. Yes. Singing, the yes of life! Yes.
COPYRIGHT 1993 African American Review
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Section 2: Drama; play
Author:Salaam, Kalamu ya
Publication:African American Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
Words:9044
Previous Article:Yardbird's vamp.
Next Article:Yusef Komunyakaa: the unified vision - canonization and humanity.
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