Young, Gifted and the Niece of Angela Davis

Eisa Davis as herself. Linda Powell [background] as aunt Angela Davis.
Eisa Davis as herself. Linda Powell [background] as aunt Angela Davis.

So there's this really interesting play happening in NYC right now.  Stay with me, folks.  I know most of you are not in NYC, but this is worth unearthing some lively discussion.  The play's called Angela's MixTape.  It's produced by New Georges and the Hip Hop Theater Festival.  Angela's MixTape is an autobiographical musical/poetic/comical/dramatic odyssey of the life of Angela Davis.  No, not the Afro wearing, falsely-accused George Jackson-advocate of the 1970s, but Angela Davis, the niece.


Angela "Eisa" Davis grew up in Berkeley and Oakland, California.  She grew up with her activist-attorney mother Fania Davis and her activist-most-wanted-professor aunt Angela Davis. Yes, she was surrounded by socialist teachings, African-inspired spirituality, visits from Toni Morrison as well as macrobiotic cuisine and neighborly nudists.  Eisa, as she prefers to be called, was not always the ideal offspring in a family of women with uber-political and social- agendas.  In fact, Eisa fought hard to mold her own identity, despite her namesake.  She played classical piano, befriended non-black children and was obsessed with the music of her time [Prince, Public Enemy and early 90s British Imports].  And here's some real drama:  besides, being encouraged as a child to do dramatic readings from her legendary aunts' autobiography, Eisa had not read the book until she was an undergrad at Harvard.

Angela's MixTape is a courageous piece of theater that doesn't necessarily poke holes in the legendary politics of Angela and her equally-dynamic sister Fania.  However, it dares to question if a community's need for equality often trumps the needs of the children.  Hey, this is not a new paradigm.  From Malcolm X to King, the children of icons have revealed plenty about their compromised parents.  So here's the question of the day:  should we have empathy for children who grew up in the Fight for Justice, but had their childhoods trumped by the bigger picture; or should we advise them to bite the bullet and point them to the future when equality will be paramount and no one will be compromised?

Keith Josef Adkins is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and social commentator.