CAMP LOGAN -The Realest History Lesson I've Ever Had.
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
One of my mentors, actor and director, Wayne DeHart (Jason’s Lyric, A Perfect World, Prison Break), reminded myself and the rest of his Facebook followers that today is the anniversary of the Camp Logan Mutiny and Houston Riots of 1917. Playwright Celeste Walker, wrote a play based on this event entitled, Camp Logan. I’ve seen this play at least ten times. It never gets old.
One of the most memorable moments in this play comes at the end, when these fearless soldiers who were fighting for their humanity, are executed (in my opinion "lynched" is a more fitting word). The dramatization of this scene moves me every single time I see this play. The first time I saw this scene, it haunted me for days.
Within those few hours of being transported back to 1917, I had grown to love these characters. They were my father, uncles, and men in my community. How could anyone kill them like that? This was a question my then immature mind wrestled with and my now mature mind is haunted by. How could they kill George Floyd like that? How could they kill Breonna Taylor like that? Do I even need to ask why they keep killing us like that?
After seeing this play the first time as a preteen, I was deeply moved. During the ride home, my dad told me about the lynching tree of Waco, TX, where he lived as a child. He told me the stories passed down to him, about the hundreds of white people who would gather and marvel at the brutal death of black men and women throughout the south. These men, women, girls and boys were lynched for minor offenses like bumping into a white person or looking a white person in the eye. I knew about lynchings already but I never digested the monstrosity of the actual practice until I saw it re-enacted in Camp Logan.
You see, although I had learned about lynchings in school (by black teachers who were not afraid to deviate from the racist curriculum that downplayed the black experience) and read about them in books, it wasn’t until I saw Camp Logan that lynchings became more than a history lesson. The shit got real.
There is another moment in Camp Logan where one of the older soldiers forces the youngest soldier to leave and hide because he needed to live to tell the truth. We know historically that the survivors of war are the ones left behind to tell the narrative, even if it is a warped narrative. This soldier knew that they would be criminalized and labeled as wild animals, hunting and killing without reason. Well, Camp Logan speaks our truth. The truth that black people are too often dismissed when they attempt to speak up about the injustices we face daily. I’m sure you’ve heard this overused quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., “A riot is the language of the unheard.” These soldiers were unheard, but thanks to Celeste Walker, we hear them today. We know they were men fighting for the right to live their best life.
Rest in peace to the black soldiers of the Third Battalion of the Twenty-fourth United States Infantry Regiment. Thank you Celeste Walker for using your talent to keep the memory of these men alive. The Black Artivist Collective salutes you. August 23, 1917. We will never forget.