by The People’s Minister of Information JR

Thespian, comedian, humanitarian, radio broadcaster and father would all be words to describe this Bay Area renaissance man who has been putting his stamp on Oakland and the Bay Area’s culture for decades. He is one of the colorful people who make this spot a very unique, counter-cultural mecca in the United States for Black people and anybody curious about us.

Donald Lacy brought down the house when he performed at Black Media Appreciation Night 2014 on Sept. 13 in the Buriel Clay Theater. – Photo: TaSin Sabir
Donald Lacy brought down the house when he performed at Black Media Appreciation Night 2014 on Sept. 13 in the Buriel Clay Theater. – Photo: TaSin Sabir

He is a man whose consciousness was formed in the turbulent ‘60s, cultivated at San Francisco State and refined on the streets of the Bay, where he lost his daughter in a shooting where she was an innocent bystander in the late ‘90s.

Donald Lacy will be performing his world renowned play, “Color Struck,” on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 3 and 4, at Laney College, 900 Fallon St., at 8 p.m. Check out this Oakland legend as he speaks to us about his history and thoughts.

M.O.I. JR: How long have you been a thespian? How did that happen?

Donald Lacy: I have been a thespian for 31 years; in fact, this marks my 31-year anniversary. I got my first professional check in 1983 in a play called “Bloodlines to Oblivion,” which was about a family on the eve of going to Johnstown, Guyana. The late great John Doyle directed it at the Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, which at that timed housed the Julian Theater. Richard, and I don’t want to butcher his last name, partnered with John Doyle to produce very meaningful work about Sisters and Brothers in America as well as South Africa at the height of the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

M.O.I. JR: How long have you been writing your own one-man plays?

Donald Lacy: Wow, I’ve been writing forever – since I was a small child. I wrote and directed variety shows at that time with my sisters and friends performing in them. We would do them in our garage and would invite our parents and charge them each a quarter. Some of them didn’t like paying but we made them pay up. We would then use the money to have block parties.

But I started writing for real when I got to San Francisco State and I wrote “The Loudest Scream You’ll Never Hear,” a fictional account based on the notorious Atlanta child murders. I remember when we did the play professionally it got ripped by the San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune because they said it was ridiculous to say that the Atlanta child murders were a government conspiracy and Wayne Williams did not do it. But we all know better.

I developed “Color Struck” about nine years ago with my homey Sean San Jose from Campo Santo. I keep revising it and updating it to reflect current events like the Michael Brown murder so that it stays relevant and timely.

Donald Lacy will be performing his world renowned play, “Color Struck,” on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 3 and 4, at Laney College, 900 Fallon St., at 8 p.m.

M.O.I. JR: What is the topic of “Color Struck”? Why is that an important issue in the Black community?

Donald Lacy: The topic of “Color Struck” is racism, and how racism works on so many levels. As a lighter skinned Black person growing up in the height of the Black Consciousness Movement in the ‘60s and ‘70s, I was reminded daily that I wasn’t Black enough by some of my peers.

I also noticed how light skinned people were considered by some in our community as better than dark skinned people in those days, and some people still feel that way today. People say things like “good hair,” referring to the fact that your hair is not as nappy as others.

Color Struck 1014, web“Color Struck” looks at those improper ways of thinking that have been programmed into us by institutionalized racism that permeates every level of American society. They used to say things like the good guys wear white hats the bad guys wear black hats, etc. All of this brainwashing has been internalized by our people to attach negative connotations toward dark skin and nappy hair – when in fact dark skin and nappy hair is a positive, not a negative.

We have to learn to love ourselves as the diverse group of people that we are. We range in all different colors from fair to dark and have all kind of different hair textures. We need to embrace the diversity of who we are as a people and stop tripping on skin color and other superficial things like that. I see a lot of dark skinned sellouts on Fox News who blame the Black community for everything that is wrong in our community.

“Color Struck” is also important because it calls for an official apology from the U.S. government for slavery and the call for reparations. Jews, Japanese and Natives have received reparations for atrocities committed against them, yet no one wants to give African descendants our reparations – and this country was built on the backs of our ancestors.

M.O.I. JR: What has the response been locally to this one-man play?

Donald Lacy: The response to “Color Struck” is overwhelmingly positive from people locally and around the country. “Color Struck” has been performed on mostly college campuses from California to New York. “Color Struck” premiered at the National Black Theater Festival in 2007 and was performed during the Congressional Black Caucus legislative conferences in 2007 and in 2008 after Congresswoman Barbara Lee saw it at Laney College in 2007.

The best thing about the show are the post-performance discussions that ensue immediately after the show. It’s amazing to hear people of all races and ages discussing racism in America. This dialogue is long overdue and needs to be continued. I did the show in front of all white audiences in Arcata and the discussions lasted well over 90 minutes. I admire white folks who are not afraid to admit they have learned racist ideas and behaviors and are honest enough to admit that, while facing and addressing their own biases.

M.O.I. JR: Who is your target audience? Why?

Donald Lacy: My target audience is all people, at the risk of sounding vague, because we all are in some way, shape or form affected by racism and racist behavior. But I will say that young Black men, in particular, are the immediate target audience because there is so much valuable information in the show about our history that they need to survive in racist America.

“Color Struck” looks at those improper ways of thinking that have been programmed into us by institutionalized racism that permeates every level of American society.

Most of the information in “Color Struck” comes from my brilliant teachers and mentors who I had the honor of learning from while I was a student at San Francisco State University. I was told by Dr. Raye Richardson a long time ago that if you’re Black in America, you are schizophrenic by nature, because we live in our natural Afrocentric world, and the world of white male supremacy in America.

Dr. Wade Nobles taught me that the definition of power is the ability to define reality and have others – us – accept that reality as if it is their own. I learned from Angela Davis about women, race, class and the blues. Dr. Oba T’Shaka taught me about the Memphite early civilizations and the African universities where the ancient Greeks came and stole all of the knowledge they took credit for.

And from Dr. Francis Cress Welsing the Cress Theory of Color Confrontation, which is the best explanation for racism and white male supremacy that has ever been written. That is why it is so important for young Black men to get this information so they can properly understand how we got into the situation that we are in today. And I will add that this is by design and is centered around genocide of Black people.

M.O.I. JR: Can you also talk a little bit about your history as a comedian? When are you performing next?

Donald Lacy: I’ve been doing comedy since 1989. I moved to LA in 1992 and started doing comedy for real. I actually helped start the Bay Area Black Comedy competition the first year it began. I appeared on BET’s Comic View the first four seasons when DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Sommore were the original hosts.

I have been lucky to open for Paul Mooney, DL Hughley, Sommore, Faizon Love and even got to work with the great Robin Harris in Oakland before he passed. He was one of the best, in terms of capping and being a spontaneously funny, funny dude. I have done stand up overseas in the Far East and in Germany.

Donald Lacy in silhouette performingStand up is really like therapy for me. I get to talk about a lot of stuff I normally couldn’t get away with in public. The reason I love doing “Color Struck” so much is that 65 percent of the show is based on comedy routines that I have been doing over the years. A lot of “Color Struck” is jokes. A lot of my comedy material is about race and racial differences.

I like to do what is called political comedy by some, but to me it’s just commenting on current events like the great comedians of the past used to do, like Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor and George Carlin. Not to say I am anywhere near their class, because to me those three, along with Paul Mooney and Dick Gregory, are the real Kings of Comedy. Those are some of my favorites with Pryor being No. 1.

“Color Struck” is launching the 2014-2015 Conversations N Color Tour, which will begin Sept. 25-27 at the University of Puget Sound as part of the 2014 National Conference on Race and Pedagogy. Angela Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr. are the keynote speakers at the conference.

I have some other one nighters in October. I’ll be doing it around the Bay Area. People can get the schedule on my Facebook page, which is facebook.com/donaldlacy.

Stand up is really like therapy for me. I get to talk about a lot of stuff I normally couldn’t get away with in public. The reason I love doing “Color Struck” so much is that 65 percent of the show is based on comedy routines that I have been doing over the years. A lot of “Color Struck” is jokes. A lot of my comedy material is about race and racial differences.

I will also be doing a play in November called “Superheroes,” a fictional story written and directed by Sean San Jose that is loosely based on the “Dark Alliance” series by Gary Webb. It’s gonna be way deep. I’ll have to talk more about that later.

M.O.I. JR: When and where are you performing “Color Struck”?

Donald Lacy: Color Struck is returning to Laney College, the place where it all began in 2007. The show will be performed Friday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 4, at 8:00 p.m. at Laney College Theater, which is located at 900 Fallon St. in Oakland.

After each show we will be discussing race in America, so come prepared to chop it up and tell the truth. The discussions are not always comfortable but are very insightful. We want the discussions for these shows to center on police misconduct and murder and how race and racism plays a big part in those injustices.

You can reserve your tickets by calling 510-663-5683 or by purchasing them online, at www.colorstruck.net. Portions of the proceeds will be donated to the LoveLife Foundation’s Art and Media Training Academy, which just completed an eight-week training program with inmates at San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno.

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about the mission that you have been on since losing your daughter to the streets of West Oakland?

Donald Lacy: Thanks, JR, for asking that question. My daughter was 16 years old when she was killed on Oct. 20, 1997, an innocent victim to a shooting across the street from her high school, McClymonds.

Donald Lacy teaches radio broadcasting to prisoners in the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno in the LoveLife Foundation’s Art and Media Training Academy. Lacy is not only a comedian and thespian, he’s been the host of Wake Up, Everybody every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon on KPOO Radio 89.5FM for decades. On several recent shows, he played pre-recorded one-and-half-hour shows completely produced by the prisoners.
Donald Lacy teaches radio broadcasting to prisoners in the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno in the LoveLife Foundation’s Art and Media Training Academy. Lacy is not only a comedian and thespian, he’s been the host of Wake Up, Everybody every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon on KPOO Radio 89.5FM for decades. On several recent shows, he played pre-recorded one-and-half-hour shows completely produced by the prisoners.

A few months before she was murdered in West Oakland, she lost a classmate of hers to violence, and she told me she wanted to do something to honor her friend. She asked me to help her write a play about her friend and stopping the violence. I was so inspired and impressed that she was willing to turn her grief that she was feeling for her murdered friend into doing something positive.

So naturally, when she was killed, I decided to honor her wishes and start the LoveLife Foundation a few weeks after she was killed. In fact without me doing this life saving work, I do not know if I could have survived her murder. It has been devastating to me, her mom, and our family and her friends.

My daughter, LoEshe’, which means “love life” in English, was well loved by a lot of people in the community. With the help of my lifelong friend Will Hammons, we train young people primarily in media and performing arts to put out positive, life affirming messages and programs that air on KPOO 89.5 FM and KMTP Channel 32 television and KTOP, the City of Oakland’s television station.

The programs we do have won several awards, including the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award, the Red Cross Community Service and the Angel Award from the Take Wings Foundation, to name a few. The work of LoveLife was also proclaimed from the floor of Congress by Congresswoman Barbara Lee.

The play my daughter wanted to do has been done several times and seen by thousands of youth and is called “Legacy For LoEshe’.” I want to thank Michael Torres, the theater director at Laney College, for doing “Legacy” at Laney as well as “Color Struck.” Torres also directed “Color Struck.”

The shows of “Color Struck” at Laney on Oct. 3 and 4 are a benefit for The LoveLife Foundation, so I hope folks come out and support. While I lost one, I feel blessed because through LoveLife I have been able to reach thousands.

First of all, thank you JR and the San Francisco Bay View, Willie and Mary Ratcliff for all that you all do to keep our community informed. The Bay View newspaper is an institution in our community that deserves our full support.

People can keep up with me on Facebook on Donald Lacy or Lacy Donald.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and the newly released “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

6 COMMENTS

  1. "Paul Mooney, DL Hughley, Sommore, Faizon Love and even got to work with the great Robin Harris.." These names as far as i concern, were great comedian during 90s era. Bebe Kids one of the notable work from Robin which he did the recurring comic sketch. Robin died in his sleep and his wife was pregnant with their son and maybe one day, his son could replaced Robin to be a great stand up comedian.By the way i would definitely follow Donald Lacy Facebook if there are any future event.

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