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Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’

“I Want My Ham! A Meditation on Hambone” from Donya K. Washington

In Assistantship on January 29, 2013 at 3:13 PM

Donya Washington Photo Week 2v2

I’m assisting on Two Trains Running and have the privilege of listening to the play every day. One of the characters in the play, Hambone, has essentially two lines. “I want my ham.” “He gonna give me my ham.” After listening to those lines for several days, one day I suddenly heard them. Although he seems simple, Hambone’s story is one of profound persistence in the face of injustice. For nearly a decade, this man has tried to claim what he believes is rightfully his – just payment for his services. Although he is offered a lower fee (a chicken), he refuses. He will take nothing less than a ham, no matter how many times he must ask for it. His request is simple, but his stubborn determination is profound.

Last week, January 21st, was the day set aside to remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. During his final trip in Memphis, Dr King (along with many others) worked with the Sanitation Workers to help bring their strike to a successful conclusion. They are the ones you see in photos from the period holding signs that say “I AM a man.” This was not the first (nor would it be the last) time they had struck to fight for a living wage. Those men, like Hambone were fighting for their right to be heard, or as Dr King said the night before he died “We are saying that we are determined to be men. We are determined to be people.” It seems such a simple thing, and something that today most of us are lucky enough to take for granted. But those simple things are often the most difficult to attain.

At a production meeting last week someone, in reference to using food on stage, said “We can’t do leftovers.” The phrase stuck with me. It seemed more profound than the intended meaning of the moment. Hambone wasn’t settling for leftovers. The strikers in Memphis weren’t settling for leftovers. And Dr. King certainly wasn’t settling for leftovers. What does this mean for me? I’m an artist. I’m black. I’m a woman. Many people fought and died for my right to ride on a bus and sit anywhere I please; many people fought and died for my right to so freely declare myself an artist – without my ancestors struggle for self-determination (their “ham”), I would not have been free to follow my heart into theatre. To honor their fight, I believe it’s my duty to give my all to my craft, to learn as much as I can and to speak with integrity through my work.

I need to fight for my own ham. We as a people should not settle for leftovers. It may take the stubborn determination of Hambone, but to get to the Promised Land we can’t settle for leftovers. I want my ham. He gonna give me my ham!

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