Long before “bromance” was coined as a term for friendship between two men, Jeff Fort and Fred Hampton shared a passion to create social justice for Black men and women. Their clash over how to get there formed the cauldron that bonded them.
Steven Long has penned a story for the Chicago Fringe Festival in “Jeff Fort and Fred Hampton: A Revolutionary Love Story” depicting a fierce compassion between two men come of age in a racist society seemingly ripe for change.
The importance of the lessons of this story seep through the conversations between Jeff Fort and Fred Hampton. We watch two men on the frontlines of revolution even while we see their hearts incline toward love.
Chicago Fringe Festival Presents A History That Haunts
It is fitting to present this theater piece in Chicago where baby-boomers still feel the sting of Hampton’s assassination and Fort’s imprisonment. For those who do not know the pathos of this true story, the color-coded berets will help. The red berets of the Blackstone Rangers — Jeff’s street smart gang espousing Black Power by force — and the black berets of the Black Panther Party — Fred’s black nationalist/socialist organization underscore their differing allegiance. Jeff, played by Keith Surney, is reactive and explosive. Fred, played by the lanky, physically imposing Jerome Rhodes, is a man with a big heart channeled into a vision of a just world.
The audience is witness to a relationship that forms over a series of meetings. Each man sees the potential in the other. Fred moves with alacrity in organizing and coalition building. Jeff knows the danger he was born into on Chicago’s south side. While Jeff is quick to resort to violence, he recognizes a visionary in Fred and cannot resist his heart’s movement toward him.
In each scene change, there is little movement in ideology between the men. The shift is in their support of one another — an unspoken tenderness emerges regardless of how their paths diverge. Can potential be called forth from another if we believe it does not exist? We witness two men who will not abandon one another. Their belief in one another is palpable.
A rear-projected slide screen recounts some of the iconic symbols and people of the 1960’s Black Power revolution. They contextualize the love and admiration Jeff has for the doe-eyed Martin Luther King Jr. He says King looks like Bambi. The mask he wears to cover his heartbreak over King’s assassination also galvanizes his aggression.
September 2, 2017 @ 10PM
September 3, 2017 @ 4PM
September 4, 2017 @ 5:30PM
September 7, 2017 @ 8:30PM
September 9, 2017 @ 2:30PM
September 10, 2017 @ 5:30PM
Chicago Fringe Festival
The Meeting Hall @ Congregational Church of Jefferson Park
5320 W. Giddings Street, Chicago
About the Author:
Stephen B. Starr is Principal of Stephen B. Starr Design, Inc., a design and communication consultancy in Evanston, IL. Stephen is a former president of the Chicago Creative Coalition, organizer for the Chicago Weekly Sitting Meditation Group and founder and organizer of the Chicago Web Professionals. Stephen is nurtured creatively by the fine art of story-telling — especially in the theater. As a college journalism major, he has since followed the siren’s call of poetry and short story writing in his free time. He is interested in the wisdom of indigenous spiritual traditions and seeks inspiration in natural settings by gardening, camping, hiking and biking.