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Roger Guenveur Smith is my special guest on "Here's A Thought with Charles Shaughnessy" September 18, 2014 on TradioV

One of the best shows I have ever seen of live theatre was when I saw actor, writer, director, Roger Guenveur Smith do his one man show called "Frederick Douglass Now" at the Bootleg Theatre here in Los Angeles. 

KCRW said about the show "If there is no struggle, then there is no progress." Actor/writer/director Roger Guenveur Smith echoes those famous words, from abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, in his one man show Frederick Douglass, Guenveur Smith has created one man performance pieces that embody that struggle, whether about Douglass, Rodney King, or Huey P. Newton. They may be characters from the past, but through Guenveur Smith's interpretation and original narratives, their words ring just as true today as they did over a hundred years ago, compelling audiences to ask, "Has anything truly changed?" Click on the photo to be taken to a  clip from Mr. Smith's website from the show  "Frederick Douglass Now"

I knew I wanted Roger to be a guest on "Here's A Thought" and am so thrilled to announce that he will be my special guest this Thursday, September 18th at 3 pm pst on TradioV.  Our topic this week will be Black & White in America. This is such an important topic and very much in the media now. 

Roger was born in 1955 in Berkeley, California, the son of Helen Guenveur, a dentist, and Sherman Smith, a judge. He attended Occidental College (American Studies) in Los Angeles and Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, where he successfully auditioned for the Drama School, switching from his pursuit of a graduate degree in History. Additionally, he studied at the Keskidee Arts Centre in London, England. Currently, Roger works and resides in Los Angeles, California. He also resides in New York City and also appeared in the acclaimed HBO Series, OZ, Season One, the film Tales from the Hood with Corben BernsenFinal Destination, and a multitude of other film, television and stage appearances.

About Roger Guenveur Smith from his Facebook Page

Roger Guenveur Smith (born July 27, 1959) is an American actor and writer who's appeared in films such as American Gangster and Final Destination.
Roger Guenveur Smith (born July 27, 1959 in Berkley, California) is an American actor, writer, and director who's appeared in films such as "American Gangster", "Final Destination", and Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing". He studied at Yale University and Occidental College, and has taught at both institutions, as well as Cal Arts, where he currently directs his Performing History Workshop.

He is currently touring his critically acclaimed solo performance piece, "Rodney King", including stints at New York’s The Public Theater and The Wooly Mammoth Theater in Washington, DC. The LA Weekly named "Rodney King" as one of their “Top Ten Plays of 2013″.

In addition to his work in film, Roger has created, performed, and directed an astonishing body of work for the international stage. He adapted his Obie Award winning solo performance of "A Huey P. Newton Story" into a Peabody Award winning telefilm directed by Spike Lee, a signature tour de force of which the New York times wrote, "Roger Guenveur Smith gets it all, and gets it brilliantly."

Among his other historically-driven solos are "Frederick Douglass Now", "Who Killed Bob Marley?", "In Honor Of Jean-Michell Basquat Iceland", "Juan and John", "The Watts Towers Project", "Twenty Twenty", and "The End Of black History Month". The acclaimed duet "Inside the Creole Mafia" is a "not too dark comedy" performed with Mark Broyard.

Mr. Smith also collaborates frequently with the composer / videographer Marc Anthony Thompson, who joined him onstage for "Christopher Columbus", "1992", "Two Fires", and scored "Rodney King". Their latest collaboration, "Five Hundred Lives Per Mile", is inspired by the construction of the Panama Canal, and its human costs.

Among the many institutions which have presented his work are the Public Theater, the Walker Art Center, the Barbjcan Centre, Kaiitheater, and the Calabash International Literary Festival, Jamaica.

Please put your initial questions and comments here in the blog that you would like for us to discuss on the show.  Ferguson, MO? NFL & Basketball? Police Brutality? 

Really looking forward to this exchange with Roger and I hope you will too.



  1. The question of Black and White in America is a difficult one. Racialism raises its ugly head in every country in the world, as well as here in our country. In class this morning, my Second graders were discussing Johnny Appleseed and his kindness to both white people and Native Americans. One child asked me if he was kind to the Black people as well and another student (white) asked me,"What are Black people?" In her mind, she did not see Black people as any different from herself! This just proves the point that Racialism is a learned behavior! How wonderful it would be if we could all go through life not noticing the difference in the color of people!
    My question to you Roger and Charlie is this: Do you believe that Race Relations in America are better than before, or do you think incidents like the unrest in Ferguson prove that not much has changed?
    Looking forward to an interesting show on Thursday!

  2. My questions:

    (1) If the roles were reversed (black cop shooting white youth in Ferguson, white pro football player knocking his fiancee unconscious), would social/mainstream media still pay attention?

    (2) What challenges have you faced portraying a historical figure whose autobiography is assigned in college classes to help students understand racism, slavery, and the abolitionist movement in the 19th century?

  3. I've typed, deleted, and edited this comment so many times, hoping that it comes out the way it's meant to, and not misconstrued. Charlie, most of your fans(and definitely the women who are participating in the show/tweets/blogs) are middle-aged white women, living in the suburbs! We understand that we will NEVER truly "get" what the black community is experiencing, especially in the inner cities. All we know is that we have black friends, neighbors, coworkers, and sometimes even people who have married into our families....and we love them to death. We don't "see" the racism, so it's hard to discuss it without, well...sounding like a racist!!! I've noticed a lack of replies on your posts about this show, and I don't think it's lack of interest, I think it's such a tough subject that no one wants to say the wrong thing.
    My questions:
    1) What can politically conservative Americans do to join the discussion, without being labeled as racist for not agreeing with Obama?
    2) In that vein, why are black conservatives like Condi Rice and Dr. Ben Carson ostracized by the black community, and called "Oreo", "Traitor" or "Uncle Tom"?

  4. Very interesting upcoming topic... really looking forward to hear you on thursday and read all the comments here!

    I probably will share my thoughts about it but only after the show has aired because I'm sure I will sound a little bit naive and candide... 'cos A] I'm french so the situation here is not totally comparable to the one in the US (even if there are lots of similarities I'm sure!) and B] I was raised by parents teaching me that "Black is beautiful", I have always had close friends and worked with people whose parents were first immigrants (africa, north africa) so I'm aware that I will be subjective and partial... and the situation in this "post racial America" you're talking about is certainly much more complicated than that and needs time to be known & understood I think...

    Maybe one question for the both of you. No matter centuries and places, it is always a valid one I believe:
    What do you think about the use of violence (or nonviolence) to resist colonial oppressor OR obtain your freedom OR fight for your rights etc...

  5. Not a question, only a #HeresAThought
    Frederick Douglass - "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong"...
    Any thoughts? ;-)

  6. Adding a 2nd comment here, as I happened upon an internet discussion about race yesterday(love those "coincidences" ;-) ). The discussion went down a rabbit hole, wondering if the black community had unrealistic(but understandable) expectations of what life would be like when Obama took office. Of course, the media reports the "most outrageous" interviews, with black people saying "Just wait, white people, Obama is coming and you won't be in charge any more". There seemed to be a general feeling of "Yes! It's over!!" and some expectation of reparations. It was really an "aha" moment for me(or at least it made sense to a white woman). It makes sense that this would be contributing to the frustrations and the lack of hope that things will ever change, when there were such high hopes. It's only human, I'd have felt the same way.
    So my third question for Roger: Do you think that the black community had unrealistic hopes for what would happen when Obama was elected?


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