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Giving honor to two men and a city

WILLIAMS IS JOINED by videographer and friend Greg Gray following the IUN performance.

Let me talk about my city, and then tell you about two brothers that merit attention; two Black men of honor.

There are certain times during the career of a journalist, an artist, an educator, an activist when the moment seems right to seize personal privilege to express some thoughts from a personal perspective with universal implications—if you know what I mean.

As we returned the play BEING BLACK to Gary for a second performance in as many months, this one being the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday commemorative at Indiana University Northwest in Gary, we once again enjoyed an enthusiastic reception and heartwarming hospitality that is uniquely G.I.

That never surprises me, though I never take it for granted. It is a blessing to call such a warm, significant and compassionate city as Gary my hometown. Often, I confound those from larger cities with my undying love for people, places and things that poured into my life in such a mighty way.

Too many non-residents believe only what they have “heard” or point to the admitted state of current shortcomings that give no hint of our rich history and legacy. And they don’t realize that no price tag can be placed on dignity, strength, integrity and the indomitable spirit of those who have endured the best times and the worst. The word is character.

Now for the brothers I want to spotlight. The first is Tijideen Rowley, the director of BEING BLACK for all of its 12 performances. T.J., as friends and colleagues call him, is a devout family man, filmmaker, drama teacher in Indianapolis, writer, producer and director. He has produced his wife’s first music CD and video. His wealth of talent is laudable.

But his leadership skills, faith and integrity even surpass that professional mark. There are eight characters in the play BEING BLACK. Because of conflicts, only one of the original cast members was available for Gary shows at the Glen and IUN. No problem for the genius of T.J. He simply recast the seven needed roles and produced a pair of performances that exceeded any of the past. Wow!

The second brother is Greg Gray—a videographer and friend. You know him for his Dopeliven Productions that have impressed television and social media audiences throughout the region and the Midwest. In December, Greg committed to videotape the MLK Day performance of BEING BLACK. In the ensuing weeks, he got a movie shooting gig in Atlanta.

Most would have bowed out apologetically, and we would have understood. Greg wasn’t having it. He told those on the movie set in ATL he had given his word to videotape (and to a brother of distinction like Greg, that’s everything). So he called and told me he was taking a “red eye” flight the morning of the production. He got there, did the shoot at IUN, then jumped on the next flight back to Atlanta. Wow!

We spend too much time as Black people responding to the ignorance of those who have no idea and even less concern for who we are. That’s why I take this and every opportunity to draw attention to Black men, women, boys and girls whose lives are exemplary of the highest standards of humanity; simply living with no expectation of praise or recognition.

In a previous column, I suggested that we revise our approach to Black History to not only honoring our proud legacy but to giving what I call “heartbeat props” to the living, men and women who effortlessly rise to the level of role models—who individuals and children would do well to emulate.

I submit to you that TIJIDEEN ROWLEY and GREG GRAY are two men worthy of such distinction. Godspeed to both!

Vernon A. Williams
Vernon A. Williams

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: vernonawilliam[email protected].

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