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April 17, 2007 > Not a Genuine Black Man

Not a Genuine Black Man

By Mona Shah

The longest running solo show in San Francisco history comes to Newark for one night only. Stage 1 Community Theatre presents "Not a Genuine Black Man" on Friday, April 27.

Performed and written by Brian Copeland "Not a Genuine Black Man" has many themes. When Brian Copeland, at age 8, moved to San Leandro, in the early 1970s, the town, which borders Oakland, was 99.99 percent white. "Whiter than Ivory soap," Copeland says in his affecting one-man memoir. It's not surprising that Copeland, who's black, was noticed. In fact, on his first Saturday in the new neighborhood, he was chased by a group of white teens.

Remembrances like this thread their way through Copeland's tale of growing up in a town where people were judged first by the color of their skin. But "Not a Genuine Black Man" has more on its mind than the persistent racism that dogged Copeland's childhood.

It's a story of family, affectionate portraits of his mother and grandmother and a not-so-happy picture of his rarely seen father, a brute of a man who abused his wife and terrorized his children.

That Copeland, now a radio talk-show host in San Francisco, seems to have turned out so well-adjusted is a marvel. He is a genial, accomplished raconteur, able to switch back and forth between the characters in his show.

The catalyst for "Not a Genuine Black Man" is this man's determined mother. A woman with style and class, she did have her quirks. For example, she always claimed to be from Providence, R.I., not Alabama, because it sounded better. And one thing her son never figured out was why she remained so loyal to his father, who eventually disappeared from their lives.

"What his mother wanted was respect," Copeland says. It was her determination to have that respect that brought the woman and her children to San Leandro and later to initiate a lawsuit after being threatened with eviction. She brought her children up to succeed and Copeland did. His success becomes one of the show's themes, particularly in the way other blacks have responded to his having made it. Some made the accusation that became the title of his show "Not a Genuine Black Man."

"If you're talking about pigment, then, yes, clearly I am black," Copeland says at one point. "If you're talking about some cultural delineation, I don't know." The man refuses to be categorized. And it is that refusal to be stereotyped that makes "Not a Genuine Black Man" such an intriguing and entertaining evening.

For tickets call (510) 791-0287 or online at www.stage1theatre.org.

Not a Genuine Black Man
Friday, April 27
8 p.m.
Newark Memorial High School Theatre
39375 Cedar Blvd., Newark
Admission: $35 General; $25 High School Students (under 14 not permitted)

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