|Thandiwe Thomas De Shazor, Brian Freeman and Dazie Rustin Grego. PHOTO BY‚ÄąRINK
A lucky audience experienced a 20th anniversary of one of the best shows about Black gays and some of their stories on June 15 at the San Francisco Main Library. Fierce Love: Stories from Black Gay Life by Pomo Afro Homos was as fresh,uplifting and outrageous as it was 20 years ago when it erupted onto the stage at Josie‚Äôs Juice Joint in the Castro. Its creator, Brian Freeman, was speaking with Josie‚Äôs manager Donald Montwill one day about a need for such a show, and Montwill turned to him and said to get a show together and he would support it.
Montwill, much missed now, managed the Valencia Rose with his lover Jim Manness. Jimmy and Donald moved to Hawaii, where they founded the AIDS Project of Maui with their lover Tom Calvanese, and then the three moved back to San Francisco to manage Josie‚Äôs with a rule that no sexism, racism or homophobia would be expressed on their stages. Whoopie Goldberg was invited by Montwill to perform at the Valencia Rose just before The Color Purple was released, when she needed work and assurances, and she supported him throughout his illnesses and is seen pushing Manness‚Äô wheelchair past the White House during the 1987 March on Washington videos.
Pomo Afro Homos with its views into the private lives of characters Freeman and his collaborators knew and dreamed up was an immediate hit, and eventually was performed all over the world. And it caused controversy when it was on stage in Alaska, involving bigots and the state legislature.
Freeman is a playwright/actor/director with tremendous depth of purpose and a passion for quality in his work. His hard hitting Civil Sex about the life of openly gay civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, is an inspiration to political activist and theater writers. Starting with the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Freeman has also been involved with ‚ÄúA Slight Variance‚ÄĚ at the Yerba Buena Center and with the Afro Solo Festival.
Freeman chose well when he invited two young performers to join him in a show on stage at the Koret Auditorium last Tuesday. Thandiwe Thomas DeShazor performed at the recent highly regarded Afro Solo Festival and Dazie Rustin Grego starred in his own ‚ÄúI Am A Man‚ÄĚ show at Mama Calizo‚Äôs Voice Factory. DeShazor and Grego expertly interacted with each other and with Freeman, conjuring up the dazzling show that this journalist enjoyed with his friends two decades ago.
Their verbal duel between activists and party guys, a couple going through escalating gentrification, and a loving gay couple dealing with a hypocritical intruder enchanted listeners and drew sighs and yeahs from the crowd.
The James C. Hormel Center‚Äôs Karen Sundheim welcomed the guests to the event, and she mentioned that the Hormel and African-American Centers of the Main Library and the National Queer Arts Festival sponsored the performance, and the sustained applause throughout the evening showed the approval of the audience.