“Know Thy Enemy,” a Hadley Players offering featured at the Democracy Prep Charter School, located at 207 West 133rd Street, in Harlem, is a must see play that will run until March 8th. Written and directed by Lillie Redwood, and performed by an esteemed cast, “Know Thy Enemy,” is the story of the Hunters, a freed black family who lived in the slave state of New York in the late 17th century. Believing their status as free educated black people was protection against slavery, the family soon found they were not exempt from kidnappers who stole the family and forced them back into slavery.
Having known freedom, Joshua Hunter was determined to get free. Once he did, he rescued his family one by one with the help of other escaped slaves who hid in secret runaway maroon camps in the swamps of Georgia and parts of Florida. As laws changed it became more and more dangerous and difficult for escaped slaves to find safe havens anywhere within the USA at that time.Joshua (Che Anekwe) and his wife Miriam (Valerie Tekosky) spent 15 years rescuing their family members and getting them to safety in Canada. They finally located their youngest son, David, who the kidnappers sold into slavery at a very young age. David (Curtis Williams) was used by his Master to run in sports events and to breed. This earned David compliments from his Master and extra food. David took this to mean that his Master found him indispensable. He saw his breeding slaves and winning sports events for his master as a good thing. He never realized he was actually demoralizing and raping slave women in his bid to breed slave children for his master.
A victim of Stockholm Syndrome, David’s misguided loyalty to his master made him think his Master loved him and that he returned his Masters love. As a result, David saw his parents as strangers who kidnapped him away from a Master who offered him a good life on the plantation. Unaccustomed to hard work, David resented being in the maroon camp, seeing the other slaves as lesser than himself. Unaware he was a victim of his master’s manipulation who forbade David an education or to love a woman in order to keep David ignorant and without conscience. Rather, David, saw himself as the ‘nigger’ his master told David he and the other slaves were – just mere children who must rely on their masters for their very sustenance, lodging, clothing and lives. David was unable to see the Master’s hold over his uneducated mind and believed the Master when he told David a slave’s sole purpose was to keep the Master happy. Thus, David was desperate to return to his own enslavement.
David’s loyalty to his Master was a source of concern to the other runaway slaves because they feared he would betray them if he ever got back to his Master. Thus they asked Alayda (Angela Sims) (whose parents had been murdered by slavers) to keep an eye on him. Adopted by runaway slave Mama Jean (Kimberlee Monroe) who found Alayda wandering in the woods after her parents were hung, Mama Jean finally had the child her Master never allowed her to have since all her children were sold at birth. Both Mama and Alayda tried to deprogram David by giving him a sense of his own identity. Unfortunately, David’s mind was so enslaved, he escaped from the maroon camp in a bid to return to his Master. This forced Joshua to hunt for his son, forcing him back to the camp and shackling him until the others decided his fate. Unfortunately for the runaways, the slavers penetrated the swamps and it became necessary for them to make a hasty retreat. With few places to go, the runners separated, some trying to get to Florida in hopes of finding safety while others attempted to reach Canada while avoiding capture.
“Know Thy Enemy” reminds audiences that there was a time when black people faced an unbearable hopelessness and fear filled existence with danger at every turn. Especially, when some of the slaves were so brainwashed via ignorance, fear, division, cruelty, hatred, degradation, abuse, and oppression of their mind, body an soul, they did not know who to trust. They had no family to turn to because the Master made sure they had no family. Controlled by their Masters, slaves embraced the Master’s religion, language, and relied on him for their food, water, clothing, and lodging. They lived or died at the will of their Masters who controlled their very existence. After hundreds of years of this treatment, Blacks virtually became the physical and psychological puppets of the demons that oppressed them. An oppression so insidious the remnants of slavery lives on to this very day. Via slave mentality, some Blacks prefer the lighter skin of the oppressor — considering it superior to their own beautiful varied hues. Via slave mentality, some 21st century Black men still continue to behave as the breeder while abandoning their families. Via slave mentality, African Americans give away their great spending power, by purchasing in the businesses of their oppressors, rather than invest in their own businesses, establish their own banks, own their own stores and support their own people. Instead, they fight to the death to worship the God their oppressor gave them, a God symbolized as tortured and murdered and one the oppressor neither respects nor fears, since they continue to oppress. I am sure African Americans reading this would be scandalized by such a statement since few allow themselves to trust in the loving, living God that lies within. It’s something to consider while pondering whether in knowing thy enemy, one is willing to confront the greater enemy, the enslaved mind.
For tickets call 212-360-9314 or visit the web at www.HadleyPlayers.com
By Deardra Shuler for EURWeb.com