The Writing of SoTru, a biopic of social relevance today

Formerly known as “I Am Sojourner Truth” screenplay by Angela Terga and Lateef Calloway.

First the visionary structure. On October of 2016, you saw me fly across the Atlantic to attend Linda Aronson’s non linear script writing master class at Ealing Studios in London. The workshop added confidence to how we, the writers, chose to structure SoTru, the screenplay I’ve been working on since the summer of 2015 with Lateef Calloway, the young independent producer and director whose mission is to bring forth the ultimate icon of feminism and equality through the life and works of Sojourner Truth. The nature and relevance of her teachings are just as pertinent or more today than ever. More than a year later, at the beginning of 2017, Lateef and I plan to meet for several days when we will scrutinize the screenplay, compare it to the Treatment, take notes and then polish the diamond of a well crafted first draft.  SoTru, the script, must not only pass the ten page test, it must receive a first class production fund.

During out first meeting in 2015, Lateef and I crafted the structure of the biopic. Starting somewhere near the middle where her life appeared most exciting and then flashing back to her nativity for a tour of enduring heartache and pain with dignity and grace until the end. Once the journey’s vision was set, I proceeded to research, read, write and get into the spirit during my month-long visit to Battle Creek where I stayed at six generation descendant of the historical figure, Thomas McCliechy’s home. Thomas and I talked about “grandma” every day all day when he was around.  I would often ask him how he thought Sojourner would want me to write-in this or that occurrence stated in her Narrative’s editions.  I can see Thomas’ goatee moving up and down as he’d say, “tell the truth, that’s what she would have said. That’s what she stood for, and that’s why she changed her name to Sojourner Truth.”  In honoring that manifesto as a writer, I have encountered many forks on the road of writing SoTru. My greatest endeavor and hope is to show what the avenues present while not inflicting judgment on the path traveled. For truth, in my own definition, lacks judgment. Therefore, exposing the facts should be all one needs to come to a conclusion.  For instance, when Sojourner took it upon herself to travel the northeastern countryside instilling prudence and warning the hordes of wretched souls seeking enlightenment against the pitfalls of fanaticism, she exposed the truth before her, not just by her words but because those poor souls saw it and felt it in their hearts. Even the preachers urging them to extremism and delusion agreed with her common sensical arguments and so will audiences worldwide when they see and hear her coming to life on the screen. Is it not relevant today to warn our brothers and sisters of the perils of dogma?

The Writer’s responsibility. Besides sticking to the telling (showing) of the truth and nothing but the truth, so help us God, writers of figures such as Sojourner Truth have the delicate task of transforming historical speeches and events into everyday life AND keep you at the edge of your seat every minute of film’s hour.  I can just hear the critics say, “we were on the edge of our seats every step of SoTru’s way,” instead of “the dialogue was ridden with

self-importance.” Critiques apart, being able to convey feeling to the general public is the writer’s purest aspiration.  Will the audience cry and laugh and wonder and sing along and fear and cheer with our dearest hero? Only then, will our soul rest.  How do we best bring a character to life in the public’s heart and eye, for present and future generations? That’s our quest and you’re the judge of our success. So delicate a matter it is that we must exercise the most caution and care in the construction of every scene for no one set is irrelevant.

Words such as conflict, suspense, intrigue, fear, elation, sorrow, despair, grief, pain, sickness, delusion, courage, inspiration, revelation, endurance, hope, love, forgiveness, desire, determination, agitation, declaration, mobility, encouragement, count among some of the exciting circumstances surrounding the life of one of the most dynamic inspirational lecturers of all times on topics such as freedom and equality, Sojourner Truth. Her legacy is in our hands to inspire new generations to achieve a higher standing in the world through education and organization. In her own words, “agitate, agitate and get in the mix while it’s still stirring.” A legend in her own time, SoTru brings us a breath of fresh air in the form of hope and accomplishment while entertaining us with our hero’s wit and song.  So keep in mind the title “SoTru” soon to hit the box.

Relevance and Purpose. What makes this film relevant today is not just that talent shines no matter what and God has always and will always use some of us to create great waves of change, nor that this woman born Isabella Baumfree accomplished almost all her goals by mere faith and determination, self-reliance instead of fear using common sense, nor that she attained Buddhahood. What makes this film relevant today is that she showed us how we must find a way to love even our enemies so we can see truth for it is “on the shoulders of the black man that the civilization of the white man rests.”  I interpret this statement to mean that the black man civilizes the white. But what civilization is has different meaning to different people. To me it means the evolution of the species.  Evolving means peace, harmony, prosperity, health, water, resources, knowledge, justice, fairness, brotherhood, tolerance in the world towards one another.

SoTru was the first to win a court battle against a powerful white man and get her son out of slavery in the deep south. Nonetheless, she lost him to the festered social arena and mass incarceration of black youth in the city of New York soon after slaves were freed in 1828. In response, she changed her name and filled her heart with love, vowing to profess Truth on her Sojourn. Thereafter referring to herself as Sojourner Truth, councillor to her people and advisor to Presidents, pressing the issue of women’s rights, equal pay for equal work, equal education and penal reform. The same voices are being heard today across the world. Join us in acclaiming justice and equality from sea to shining sea. SoTru.

Rollerskates and The Healer

Every time I edit my writing it keeps getting better and better.

TAT Productions LLC

carmelo-prado-paisaje-cubano-2Rollerskates & The Healer-For information about Carmelo Prado’s Art Sales Contact AngelaTerga.

Teresa has a brand new pair of skates from the Three Magic Kings. They sure did work their magic. After all, she had put food out for them, her favorite, crackers and guava paste. Someone had stood in line all night to get them. Mother, Father or both, and had a contact behind the counter. Teresa wanted rollerskates and she’d get her wish, as usual.

Days later, Teresa carries Jorgito on her back while rollerskating at the park. They turn the corner very fast and end up on the gutter piled over on the curb. The wheels of Teresa’s skates had gotten caught between the sidewalk and the curb. Down they went rolling and turned over on their back. One of her ankles started throbbing so she took off her skates. On her bare feet she limped two…

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Rollerskates and The Healer

carmelo-prado-paisaje-cubano-2Rollerskates & The Healer

For information about Carmelo Prado’s Art Contact AngelaTerga

Teresa got a brand new pair of rollerskates from the Three Magic Kings. They sure did work their magic. After all, she had put food out for them: her favourite, crackers and guava paste. Someone had stood in line all night at the People’s store to buy them. Mother, Father or both, and they probably had to pay a contact behind the counter to save them a pair. (Funny how they now had to wait in line to buy at a store which once was theirs). Teresa wanted roller skates, and she’d get her wish, as usual.  Or else, she’d wail all day and night.

Days later, Teresa carries Jorgito on her back while rollerskating at the park.  They were the kind of roller skates that you adjust to your shoe size, and she had worn them since Three KIng’s Day, all day, every day, except to sleep and bathe.  Teresa was now an expert skater that contested other skaters at the park where they tracked their races on a daily basis. Teresa and Jorgito made it once around the track in the park, but in the second round she turned the corner too fast and ended up in the gutter piled over the curb. The wheels on Teresa’s skates got caught between the sidewalk, which the kids used as their skating rink track,  and the curb. Down went Teresa with Jorgito on her back turning over on her side. Her right ankle started throbbing right away so she took off her skates and limped the two blocks home on her bare feet with Jorgito still clinging to her back. He was 4 and she was 8.

That was in the morning around 10 am.  The rest of the day, Teresa’s ankle grew by the minute as if wanting to explode; it hurt to put it down from the bed where she was ridden in complete boredom. It hurt to move it up and down, right or left, or take a step. It was numb in some points; it was black and blue despite the ice pack and the rub. Father came home that afternoon in his light blue, 55 Buick sedan, a sight she rarely got to see since the car was only moved in case of emergency or a long road trip.  He carried her into the back behind the driver’s seat, her favourite spot in the car. Teresa didn’t ask where her father was taking her or why. It didn’t cross her mind to. She was too glad and pleased to feel the cool, cream leather seat beneath her and be going for a ride. Right when she rolled the window down and smiled to the wind beating on her cheeks, her ankle was forgotten, only the thrill of the ride mattered as she waved goodbye to the lot of kids getting ready to race at the park.  It may have been an hour and a half or later when the car stopped several miles out of town on a winding road through rolling hills in front of a one-room, thatched-roof board house.

Inside the ash-compacted, dirt-floor cabin, there was a rustic table and 4 wooden chairs with goatskin backs. Father sat Teresa in one.  A man of average height stood in the back of the ample room.  His back was turned to the father and the child while he buttoned up his farmer’s khaki shirt. The man then turned and faced the visitors. He did not smile. Teresa noticed his strong brown arms had a tint of olive, like his shirt. He did not say a word.

Father must have spoken but she did not hear his words. Instead, she stared at the man’s eyes. They were slate black.  He moved towards them slowly and nodded in response to what her father said. He then turned away from them again and walked to the coal kitchen by the back door. Moments later he returned, silently still, bent over and took a look at Teresa’s swollen foot resting on the chair.  Without so much as touching the ankle, he swept his hand over the foot gently, turning the palm upwards. Teresa and the man looked into each other’s eyes. There was more silence.

It was over, that was it. Father carried her to the car and they made their way back home as the sun’s rays went down over the hilly countryside. It was dusk when the car returned the father and child to their front door.  The latest episode of Zorro was on and Teresa raced from the car to beat her friend Rosa Maria en route to the mini rocking chair in front of the TV where the children from the block met daily at 7 pm.

Mother called from her bed but Teresa did not hear what she said. Angelina was frying yucca and Father was already seated at the table. But not she. Teresa dashed to the rocking chair but discovered that Jorgito was already stationed there.

“Come eat,” said her father.

 “I hate yucca con café con leche and huevo frito,” thought Teresa but obeyed.

The customary party of Zorro fans were gathered in the TV room, Pepito, RosaMaria, Jorgito and Lichito. On the screen, Don Diego flies across the breadth of a cathedral ceiling in black and white with a glimmering smile and a twinkle in his eye, while the children gazed into the box like captive zombies.

The next morning, still in his underwear, Jorgito watches Teresa put on her rollerskates from his front porch. He runs inside quickly, pulls a shirt over his head and races out to catch up with her already opening the iron gate and rolling onto the pebbled street.

Teresa calls out to him,“this time we’re going to take the curve from the inside instead of the outside, so when we gain speed we won’t be thrown out to the gutter.”

Jorgito answers with delight. “Alright!”

Off they spurred into the morning sun. Forgotten were the swollen ankle and The Healer.

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