A Meditation on Maynard: Is a Meditation on American History
The docu-play, A Meditation on Maynard, celebrates and explores the fiftieth anniversary of the election of the first African American mayor of Atlanta, Georgia Maynard Holbrook Jackson. His election stunned the financial capital of the old Confederacy.
Playwright, author, activist, and Atlanta poet laureate Pearl Cleage, who was Jackson’s speechwriter and Director of Communications, initiates the story in present-day Atlanta, but soon travels back 50 years with citizens of the city recollecting and reflecting upon the significance of the groundbreaking election.
The first recollector, “The Witness,” played by Billie Krishawn, marches onto the stage in black military boots and her hair close to the scalp. She aims a slide projector at the rear wall and flips the switch. Black and white photos of Jackson and the events of the 1973 election flashes on the wall, then captures the audience’s attention However, I was uncertain where the story was headed.
Cleage’s past plays and novels dealt with racism, sexism, and feminism with force - - and she does not hold back with this work either. The ten-cast member, “Citizens,” follow “The Witness” on stage and discuss an array of issues. A Native American gave great insight on the original peoples who resided on the land now called Atlanta. There was a truly poignant moment as he described the events of the Trail of Tears that led to the death of thousands of Native Americans.
No subject was off the table from slavery’s horrific impact on Blacks to Jackson’s support of the gay community and his efforts to reach the poor. One very humorous segment was his acceptance of a challenge to live in a notorious housing project.
The Citizens stories’ and dramatization supported The Witness’ ground laying account of Jackson’s candidacy, term, and inclusive politics that I originally found unclear. As The Citizens exited the stage, only The Witness remained. The Witness then very clearly turned to the audience and reminded us all to don’t forget to vote.