Black News, Entertainment, Style and Culture - HuffPost Black Voices
iOS app Android app More
August 27, 2014

Navy Discharges Black Sailor Who Won't Change Her Natural Hair

Jessica Sims
Jessica Sims

Poverty Is Rapidly Increasing In Suburbs Like Ferguson

Ferguson Protests
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Megyn Kelly Shuts Bill O'Reilly Down About White Privilege

Megyn Kelly
FNC

Afro-Brazilians Demand Slavery Reparations Because 'Poverty Has A Color'

Almir
Carolina Ramirez/The Huffington Post

Michael Brown Funeral Filled With Cries For Justice

Michael Brown
Pool via Getty Images

NY Times Writer Admits He Made Big Michael Brown Mistake

New York Times China
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Chicago Police Fatally Shot 2 Teens In Separate Incidents Hours Apart

Police Shootings
WGN

Michael Brown's Parents Attend Emotional Burial Service

Mike Brown Funeral
Emily Kassie

Fox News Hits New Lows In Michael Brown Coverage

Fox News
FNC

Students Hold Nationwide Walkout Of Class In Memory Of Michael Brown

Hands Up Stl
Twitter: OBS_StL

NY Times Draws Harsh Criticism For Michael Brown Article

Michael Brown
none

Michael Brown's Family Prepares To Lay Him To Rest

Michael Brown Family
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ferguson Fights For Justice Beyond Mike Brown's Death

Ferguson Missouri
Scott Olson via Getty Images

Officer Who Shot Michael Brown Began Career At Disgraced Department: Report

Darren Wilson

Michael Dunn Back In Court

Michael Dunn
ASSOCIATED PRESS

How A Massive March For Justice In Staten Island Was Not Anti-Police

Eric Garner
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Disturbing Allegations Against Ferguson Police Officer

Justin Cosma
Ryan J. Reilly/The Huffington Post

21 Numbers That Will Help You Understand Why Ferguson Is About More Than Michael Brown

Ferguson Protests
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Ferguson Police Report Raises More Questions Than It Answers

Ferguson Police
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Grand Jury In Michael Brown Case Is Mostly White

Michael Brown Grand Jury
Joe Raedle via Getty Images

Follow HuffPost

    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. HuffPost
    2. Black Voices
    1. Most Popular on HuffPost
    2. Latest News
    3. Black Voices
    4. View all RSS feeds

Oprah's Next Movie Role Is Here!!!

Oprah
Ida Mae Astute via Getty Images

Rastafarian Student Reportedly Punished At School Over Dreadlocks

Dreadlocks
Photodisc via Getty Images

Jennifer Hudson Responds To Lesbian Rumors

Jennifer Hudson Lesbian Rumors
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Little Girl Channels Beyoncé And It's ***Flawless

Cece Show Beyonce
Vine

5 Reasons Keke Palmer Is Having The Best Year Ever

Keke Fp Image
Bennett Raglin/BET via Getty Images

Young Jeezy Arrested Over Illegal Guns

Young Jeezy
Gilbert Carrasquillo via Getty Images

Halle Berry Makes A Movie Star Appearance At The Emmys

Halle Berry
Getty

Celebrities Pay Homage To Michael Brown During Funeral Service

Michael Brown Funeral
NBC

Lauryn Hill Releases 'Black Rage' Recording In Light Of Events In Ferguson

Lauryn Hill
Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images

Prince Is Releasing Two New Albums In September

Prince 3rdeyegirl
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Usher Gets An Eyeful Of Kim K

Usher Checks Out Kim
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

Blue Ivy Was The Highlight Of Beyoncé's VMAs Performance

Beyonce
Kevin Winter/MTV1415 via Getty Images

Beyonce's MTV Video Music Awards Outfit Is A Sight To Behold

Beyonce Vmas Red Carpet
JORDAN STRAUSS/INVISION/AP

All The VMAs Red Carpet Fashion From The 2014 Show

Mtv Vmas 2014 Red Carpet
Jason Merritt via Getty Images

Solange Is Just Like Us, Wears H&M To The 2014 MTV VMAs

Solange Face
Kevin Mazur via Getty Images

'Congo' Actor Ezra Mabengeza Channels Freedom Fighter Patrice Lumumba

Comments (5)


'A Season in the Congo', written by the late Aime Cesaire and produced by Jackie Jeffries and Rico Speight, explores the nation's first year of independence and the rise and fall of Patrice Lumumba.

Through archival footage, music, and magnetic performances, the play unfolds in such a beautifully honest and heart-wrenching way.

To know the story of the Congo is to know the scars left by acts of inhumanity. It can leave one to ponder why some among us harbor the murderous motivation to control as many of the earth's natural resources as possible, and to wonder for how long. But, pain is not the only story.

There is also the story of resilience, often untold, but nevertheless present.


'A Season in the Congo', which opened Sept. 30, has received rave reviews. The family of Cesaire provided their own stamp of approval, saying, that the "actors worked very hard to make the work come alive on stage" and calling the actors' performances "excellent and striking".

The late Patrice Lumumba, freedom fighter and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then called the Republic of the Congo) -- who literally gave his life not just for his nation, but for all of Africa -- is played by seasoned actor Ezra Mabengeza. The 35-year-old South African actor, of Pedi and Xhosa lineage, was born in Nelson Mandela Bay (a coastal city in South Africa) to former political prisoner and a Street Committee member of the African National Congress, Gerald Mabengeza, and Isabella Mabengeza -- currently an AIDS counselor and retired Matron of Dora Nginza hospital.

Mabengeza spoke exclusively with BlackVoices.com about how he prepared for his role as Lumumba, what he hopes audiences take away from the play, and his thoughts on the new generation of Africans at home and abroad. Excerpts of the conversation are below.

How did this role come about for you?
I was moving to Los Angeles and had to work on a film out there. Before I was leaving, the producer said to me, 'Listen before you leave, I've got something to tell you. I've been working on this play for a few years and I want you to play Lumumba.' And I was like, 'Wow.' [He told me], 'Just go do what you need to do, but as soon as the time is right, I'm gonna pick up the phone and I just want you to tell me I'm coming.' So that's how it happened.

Were you already familiar with Patrice Lumumba?
Yes, definitely. No question. It's kind of interesting. I'm reading Cesaire's words and I'm like wow these are exactly the same words that we used in our revolution. These are exactly the same words that have been used in all the other African struggles. So, that part wasn't challenging in terms of digesting the material. It became really challenging when I couldn't get too much archival footage of the man himself. I was able to track down a woman who was a reporter at the time. I introduced myself, and told her I had been asked to play Lumumba. She told me that everything that this man ever said was on point and in context. She said she never met a man like that ever in her life.

That conversation really impacted me. And the last thing she told me was to remember who I was playing and consider the legacy of this man. As a performer myself, understanding the context of this play, I certainly wanted to make sure that I did that. I didn't want to really play myself. As an African, you know that we are very spiritual. This is a man's family. He comes from a certain tribe, a certain people. And I can't just go in there and think it's me. I said a prayer to his family to thank them for this opportunity and ask for their guidance in terms of portraying their representative, their father, their brother, their cousin. I asked God to help me to be this person with integrity and dignity, and to also maintain the strength and the power and the unshakable confidence that he had in what we could do as a people.

What do you hope people take away from this play?
My intention, and I believe the cast, and I'm almost certain the director, our intention is to make sure that people understand this ideal, this truth, that Africa will not fail us. That is for me the most important thing that I consistently kept reading that was jumping out at me from the script. I was raised by my parents. My father was a political prisoner. My great grandparents believed that Africa would not fail, even though their whole experience was apartheid. So, it took an incredible belief to maintain that. I believe this came to me because that belief was in me anyway. So, I just had to give thanks and fall in line with the rest of our people who have believed that and with the rest of our descendants, and just play Lumumba with honesty and integrity.

Where do you see the new generation of Africans?
First and foremost, the new generation is beautiful . The new generation is strong. The new generation is in a place that we have never been as Africans ever before. I have lived now on five continents. When I was in England, I had homeboys who literally took care of me from Nigeria, Trinidad, Liberia, Ghana, and Jamaica. And, it's like 'Hey, we are all African.' So, that has been my experience with the new generation. Much more aware of what's at stake. A lot of us are seriously disgruntled in terms of the general state of affairs of Africa. And not only disgruntled, but I'm seeing a real move to do things.

'A Season in the Congo' runs through Oct. 17 at the Lion Theatre, on Theatre Row, in New York City.
http://xml.channel.aol.com/xmlpublisher/fetch.v2.xml?option=expand_relative_urls&dataUrlNodes=uiConfig,feedConfig,entry&id=266102&pid=266101&uts=1259783630
http://cdn.channel.aol.com/cs_feed_v1_6/csfeedwrapper.swf

Black Stars on Broadway

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    On Nov. 17, Kerry Washington made her Broadway debut with David Mamet's newest play 'Race' at New York City's Ethel Barrymore Theatre. The acclaimed actress, who wowed mainstream movie audiences in the Academy Award winning 2005 Ray Charles biopic, said she is "thrilled" about this latest career move. The show also stars James Spader, David Alan Grier and Richard Thomas.

    Robert J. Saferstein

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    Fans of the hit ABC medical drama 'Grey's Anatomy' know that Chandra Wilson has a knack for playing tough broads. This summer, the award-winning actress returns to her theater roots with a role in the legendary Broadway musical, 'Chicago.' From June 8 through July 5, the woman known to many as Dr. Miranda Bailey on the Shonda Rhimes-produced series will take on the celebrated role of reigning cellblock diva Matron "Mama" Morton at Broadway's Ambassador Theatre. The Houston native and three time Emmy Award nominated thespian's previous Broadway credits include 'Caroline, or Change,' 'Avenue Q' and 'On the Town.'

    Joan Marcus

    Black Stars Light Up the Great White Way
    Phylicia Rashad, who warmed millions of TV viewers' hearts in the 1980s as Clair Huxtable on the groundbreaking NBC sitcom 'The Cosby Show,' has taken on a role like none other. Making a triumphant return to Broadway this spring, the Tony Award-winning star of plays such as 'A Raisin in the Sun,' 'Gem of the Ocean' and 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,' exposes an emotional depth and acting range that is unparalleled. In the Pulitzer prize-winning play 'August: Osage County,' Rashad portrays Violet Weston, the pill-popping, acid-tongued, no-holds-barred central figure of a dysfunctional clan experiencing the sudden loss of its patriarch.

    Robert J. Saferstein/Jeffrey Richards Associates

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    After years of toiling on TV shows and films, acclaimed actors Ernie Hudson (of 'Oz' fame) and LaTanya Richardson Jackson (previously seen in 'The Fighting Temptations') made their Broadway debuts in the critically acclaimed revival of the August Wilson play 'Joe Turner's Come And Gone,' which opened at the Belasco Theatre on April 16, 2009. The story is set in a Pittsburgh boarding house circa 1911 and features a colorful cast of characters played by Chad L. Coleman, Roger Robinson, Aunjanue Ellis, Andre Holland, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Arliss Howard, Danai Gurira, Michael Cummings and Amari Rose Leigh.

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    Hollywood heavyweight Cedric The Entertainer joined Tony Award nominee John Leguizamo and Academy Award nominee Hayley Joel Osment in a November 2008 revival of David Mamet's classic play, 'American Buffalo,' which played a short riun at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway. Following three small-time crooks who wax philosophically about society while conspiring to steal a rare and valuable coin from a neighborhood collector, the Oscar Joyner produced production marked the funnyman's debut on The Great White Way.

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    'American Idol' Season 1 finalist Tamyra Gray blazed a new trail on Broadway when she revamped the look of lead character Mimi, a drug addicted HIV positive spitfire in the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical 'Rent.' It wasn't the first time around the track for the former Georgia pageant queen; she previously starred in the Indian inspired outing, 'Bombay Dreams.'

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    Academy Award winning film veteran Morgan Freeman made a return to The Great White Way in April 2008. The last time the 'Million Dollar Baby' actor appeared on the Broadway stage before: 1988's 'The Gospel at Colonus.' As Frank Elgin, the Memphis native took on a roll traditionally played by a white actor in the Mike Nichols-directed revival.

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    Hip-hop superstar Sean "Diddy" Combs won rave reviews as Walter Lee Younger in the 2002 revival of the classic play 'A Raisin in the Sun.'

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    Sexy 'Soul Food' star Boris Kodjoe stepped up his acting game by filling in for Terrence Howard during a break in production of the sell-out, all-black version of Tennessee Williams' play 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.' Though it was only two weeks, the former fashion model turned pin-up hunk received high marks for taking on the lead role as sexually tormented jock, Brick. He held his own alongside Tony Award winning thespians James Earl Jones, Phylicia Rashad and Anika Noni Rose.

    Black Stars Light Up The Great White Way
    'Law & Order' powerhouse S. Epatha Merkerson returned to her theater roots with her critically acclaimed turn in 'Come Back, Little Sheba.'

Comments: (4)

Add a comment

Page 1 of 1