WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27, 7pm – DRAMA – $10 Cover
No Gang War in ’74
No Gang War in ’74 is a play with a professional cast and music, based on a book written by Stephen C. Satell, which tells important Philadelphia history that starts with the Black Power conference in 1968. Frankee Davenport, a promoter and widow with six boys, attended the Conference and then started the Umoja National Magazine. She wanted to promote the things about black and African culture that were not represented in the media. She conducted meetings at her house with other professionals on Sundays.
A fiery younger man came by the house and said he was busy studying economics but he would like to help. Frankee found him intimidating, but then realized he got things done. His name was David and he had a way of capturing all of her sons’ attention. Several months later they were married and they changed their name to Fattah which means “beloved revealer.” Frankee also changed her first name to Falaka which means light. She had been named Mary Ellen after her relative, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a famous writer, who died twenty year’s before Frankee’s birth.
People wrote letters to the Umoja National Magazine asking why the gangs were killing each other all of the sudden. Guns and Heroin were coming over from Vietnam and into inner city streets. David had been in a gang in the fifties. He put his ear to the street and found out Falaka’s son was in a gang and targeted to be killed. Falaka had a reoccurring dream about a white man who touched her on the shoulder and, when he was just about to speak, she told him to get away and raged at him about Vietnam, slavery, and Jim Crow. She was surpised at her rage because she didn’t realize she had so much. Falaka had been a loving, forgiving person and serious about projecting her humanity and intelligence and the rage she felt seemed completely out of character to her. In dreams, the white man kept coming back, saying: “Free your son from his bondage. You can do it. I see the power in you. You will make ambassadors out of warriors.” Falaka continued to rage at this white man until she realized he was John Brown. Through her dreams the audience gets a unique view into Brown’s life, what brought about his empathy for blacks and his significance to American History. If Kansas had become a slave-state, the North may have seceded because the country would have been a slave country. There is much about John Brown that the public is unaware of, for instance, most know of his portrayal as a violent terrorist but few are aware that he had incredible empathy for the plight of slaves. Through Falaka’s dreams we see how brilliant Brown was during his trial, before he was put to death.
The play does not begin with the Fattahs, it opens with Derek Rush, a gang member who is an old-head at eighteen. He likes to wait outside of banks, with a gun, several times a year, and take someone’s money that had other plans. This time, however, he gets an itch on the ear and squeezes the trigger by accident. He’s horrified when he sees the man twist and fall to the ground. He just wants a chance to tell him it was an accident. This is the first of many transformations in the book.
The Fattahs invite their son’s gang into their house. Then they move to West Philadelphia and set up a boys’ town, where enemies can meet and become friends. They organize three gang conferences. The Quakers are the only ones who would hold the first conference.
No Gang War in ’74 looks at empathy through a number of different angles. It tells the history of perhaps the two greatest ambassadors ever to live in Philadelphia and the story of one of America’s greatest icons John Brown. Without Brown there may never have been a Civil War and empathy may have become extinct in America.
The theme of this play is the human capacity for empathy and we hope to project this history and encourage the teaching of empathy. Strength comes from struggle, and as part of that strength the lesson of empathy should be an important lesson. Too often the oppressed becomes the oppressor and many times the oppressor is even more chained that those they are oppressing. Falaka and David Fattah evolved past both Lincoln and Brown because they were able to destroy a destructive system through peace. Still, we pay tribute to John Brown who was willing to go to his own death for the cause of breaking a violent institution.