Interactive Program Conveys Life Lessons
By Janine Manny
THE DAILY NEWS - Section B
February 3, 2007 ~ Longview, WA
CLATSKANIE, OR – On Friday, Phillip E. Walker, the Artistic Director of the African American Drama Company, took Clatskanie on a 300-year journey through African American history.
He performed a one-man show, Can I Speak For You Brother? Friday night at the Donovan Wooley Performing Arts Center at Clatskanie Middle/High School.
“Yes, Black history is your history too,” he told Clatskanie students Friday morning in an assembly for middle and high school classes. “You can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”
In the show, Walker, 57, takes on the voice and mannerisms of Black leaders, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X and Booker T. Washington. Walker uses song, poetry, drama, dance, speech and puppetry to walk his audience through history. Walker has been performing the show for 29 years.
He ended the assembly with a song about Martin Luther King, Jr., with the audience singing the chorus. Then Walker said, “If I spoke for you, Brother. . . please speak now fo me.”
Walker’s visit was booked two years ago by the Clatskanie Arts Commission.
“We were so impressed by his ability,” Elsa Wooley of the commission said. “We were spellbound. Since then we’ve also seen what a gift he is to diversity and cultural exploration.”
Speaking Friday morning about his life as an actor, Walker said he’s not just an entertainer. His work in movies, including Rent and The Pursuit of Happyness increases exposure for the African American Drama Company.
“As a young man, I thought my job was to go out with people like Martin Luther King” he said. “I was trained to be a revolutionary. We thought we were going to change society.”
That dream, he said, was assassinated along with Martin Luther King in 1968.
Walker said if his programs touch people, he becomes that revolutionary.
“I’m still attempting to build that new society, the same as if I were marching with King,” he said. “If it works, it will cause people to talk to each other about subjects that are very uncomfortable.”
He said small communities such as Clatskanie often are the ones that want to learn about civil rights and racism - - those “uncomfortable” topics.
“This is where the work is needed and wanted, and I can really plug into the community,” he said. “I don’t know why the work continues that way but I’m very glad.”
Show: Students like the humor pg. B4
Sophomore Richard Klebs, 16, said he learned a lot from Walker’s presentation.
“It was a really good show,” he said. “I think it’s great that kids in Clatskanie can be exposed to something like this.”
Walker spent much of the day in workshops with students of Clatskanie Middle/High School. He held two workshops about body language and perception.
“The first impression people get is how they see you,” Walker told the students. “They decide who you are in a few seconds based on what they see.”
The sad thing, he said, is that most people are not aware of how they are communicating with posture and body language.
“Society is watching us, and most of what happens to us happens because of how we look,” he said.
Walker then led the students through activities and exercises to get in touch with body language, using students as actors on stage.
Walker’s visit was sponsored by the Clatskanie Arts Commission, Georgia-Pacific at Wauna, the Oregon Cultural Trust and the Columbia County Cultural Coalition.
February is Black History Month.
The students seemed to enjoy the interactive program. Every time Walker asked for a volunteer, nearly every hand in the auditorium shot up.
“I liked it, he’s really funny,” seventh-grader Brittany Littrell said after the second workshop. “You can have bad posture and not be aware of it. It’s important to make a good impression. I think being funny helps people learn things.”
Keisha House, 17, a junior, said it was fun to be on stage with Walker.
We got a lot of really good information,” she said.
African American Drama Co.
The Plaza of San Jose
30 East Julian - Suite #218
San Jose, CA 95112-4076
( (408) 216-9877 office
(415) 378-0064 cell phone