The following text is an excerpt from “Walnut Grove”, originally performed by Anthony Kamani at the M.O.V.E Conference May 6, 2017 at the Universal Audenreid Charter High School, 3301 Tasker Street, Philadelphia, PA
Setting: Now. Latitude: 39.952584 Longitude: -75.165222 Attitude: Philly, PA
Character: A dark Black man (“DBM”), late 50s steps onto a dark stage. Spotlight.
…and Baby Girl walks into the kitchen crying. Big tears. So I pick her up and hold her until she can talk. She keeps saying “they blew up Walnut Grove”. Walnut Grove…. Walnut Grove? I couldn’t place it. Then she looks at me and says “Walnut Grove. Daddy! Walnut Grove. It has so much grass. And everyone’s nice but Nelly.” TV?
(2) Lisa Larson-Walker/Slate
I wasn’t sure. But she was so upset that I Googled Walnut Grove. There really is a Walnut Grove in Minnesota, and they even have a museum. A museum, and it’s ….wait a sec. (DBM takes a wrinkled sheet from his pocket). I printed this out . Just listen. Listen to this:
The community of Walnut Grove began in 1870. The 1870’s were exciting
times. A nation, fresh from civil war, had literally been ripped apart. Its
citizens sought new beginnings far from the settled eastern states. The
Homestead Act of 1862 urged pioneers, sodbusters and immigrants to
‘head west’ and make their mark on the great expanse of the Plains. It
was a time of change and progress in communications and travel.
‘Exciting times’….’new beginnings’…‘Head West and make their mark’. Oh yeah, the pioneers make their mark. They pretty much control their own lives. No wonder Carolyn and Charles Ingalls are always happy, or only sad for sixty minutes max. But not everyone is smiling. Chinese immigrants aren’t so happy working like dogs on that magnificent new railroad, and the Sioux aren’t so happy being pushed aside for the pioneers’ path.
(3) The War Between Capital and Labor
……Off with the TV and onto her bedtime story. We start reading the book that goes with that over priced Addie Doll. I want to add a chapter. I want Addy’s Mom to give her a sharp knife so Addie can defend her little brown girl self, and stab anyone that tries to rape or beat her. I’m throwing that book away…as soon as I talk to my wife.
Spotlight off. Walnut Grove blows itself up at the end of the series. The people decide to keep their dignity, and that a company isn’t going to buy their beloved town. So they decide to blow it up, to blow up the entire town. Philadelphia decides that some people don’t deserve dignity or life, so they blow THEM up.
Do you remember where you were when they dropped that bomb on M.O.V.E? I remember remembering. People talk about those 24 hour moments, when the world changed so fast and so unmercifully full force. No brakes. Remember OJ? Whether you thought he was guilty or innocent, you remember where you were when the verdict came down. Or 9/11. You knew where you were. Anybody, everybody scared and checking on their New York loved ones. Hoping that another bomb wouldn’t drop. Drop closer to them the next time. And in Philly, photos and words and tears and bullhorns and smoke and billy sticks….and fiery death. Do you remember where you were?
(4) May 14, 1985, image Bettmann/Corbis
Some of us turned up life’s volume, and listened to reporters trying to put words together that could capture, could describe a vacuum, a space, Philadelphia’s Great Shame----what was never going to end in a nice, neat hour. Philly in full attack mode, guns cocked, bomb ready. And still, years later, some of us commemorate, while others celebrate. No happy music. No butterflies. When the bomb dropped, time and space broke into Before and After….
I need to talk to my daughter. I have to tell her that Philly isn’t Walnut Grove, and neither is Walnut Grove. And I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
Mona R. Washington is a graduate of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and Harvard Law School. She is a proud member of Voices of Our Nations Arts (VONA). Her plays have been performed in New York, Philadelphia, Rome, and Paris. She's been awarded fellowships at The Djerassi Foundation, The Dora Maar House (Provence, France), The Ucross Foundation, and The Jack Kerouac House, amongst others. Queries regarding performance rights for plays may be directed to email@example.com