African Artists’ Association members Bambadjan Bamba and Tejay Bah are currently starring in ‘Catch the Tiger,’ a play which explores Marcus Garvey’s promotion of Pan-Africanism in the 1920s. Garvey attempted to unite black people around the world through the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) while J. Edgar Hoover – head of the FBI at the time – made attempts to thwart the movement. I caught up with Bamba to discuss the significance of the play given today’s socio-political climate and the rise of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in America.
Q: What’s the significance of the play’s title?
A: The Tiger was the code name given to Marcus Garvey by J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover called him a tiger because he saw Garvey as a fearless leader. He also said that the tiger is the only animal that doesn’t fear men.
Q: What made you say ‘yes’ to this project?
A: Marcus Garvey is one of my all-time heroes. I first heard of him during a time in my life when I was trying to find my true identity and his speeches made me proud of being Black. I was fascinated by the amazing strides he was able to make in the 1920’s. 40 years before the Civil rights movement.
Q: How is this story relevant to what’s happening today?
A: The relevance to me is that we’re still dealing with some of the same challenges. Garvey’s mission was to empower blacks to own and control the resources within their communities in America, in Africa and all around the world. He believed that wealth was the key to liberty, justice and real human rights for the black community globally. He even owned a fleet of black owned and operated steam ships (the Black Star Line) at a time when blacks weren’t allowed to ride them. The fact that blacks have not accomplished ownership of their own communities almost 100 years later is mind boggling to me.
Q: What do you think people will take away from this play? What do you want them to leave with?
A: People will get a really entertaining history lesson. Other characters include JA Rogers, Asa Phillip Randolph, Amy Ashwood, and more. They will be fascinated to find out that the system of disinformation that the FBI used to take down the UNIA lead to Cointelpro which took down the black panthers decades later.
I hope people will be inspired to have conversations and take action to organize, unify and affect policy. I trust that the right person will see the power of this play and help us turn it into a feature film.
Q: How can people get better educated about Marcus Garvey?
A: YouTube has hours of his speeches and documentaries. The African American Museum has an entire section devoted to him. Burning spear has an album titled ‘Marcus Garvey.’ You can find books and free archives related to his works by doing a simple Google search.
Dates: July 24th, 2016 on Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 5:00 pm.
Venue: Studio Stage Theater, 520 Western Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90008
Author: Constance Ejuma is an award-winning actress and producer. She’s also a current member of The3As board and spearheaded the launch of this site’s blog. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.