Friday, February 18, 2011

A Long Awaited Honor Has Been Recieved!

In 1980, Odie Hawkins, wrote a teleplay for a new CBS Television Series "Palmerstown USA".  The show was the results of a new formed partnership between Alex Haley, Author extraordinaire, of the groundbreaking "Roots" Novel turned television miniseries and Producer powerhouse Norman Lear (All in the Family, Good Times, The Jefferson's) I could go on but I won't!

The series aired seven episodes before it was cancelled. Well, this past weekend, Mr. Odie Hawkins, along with other esteemed guests were invited to the Paley Center in Beverly Hills, CA for a private screening of the episode he had written "Old Sister" all those years ago. 

Mr. Odie Hawkins being honored at the Paley Center's John Mitchell Theatre
                                                                                                                                  Photo by V. Wade Williams  
 We were escorted into the John H. Mitchell TheatreMr. Martin Gostanian, of the Paley Center, explained upon his exit, the lights would lower and the program would start.  As the lights went low and faded to black, the music and opening credits rolled "Old Sister" Teleplay by Odie Hawkins other credits included famed Actor/Director Bill Duke of Carwash and Predator in the starring role. The episode also featured Actor Glen Turman of Cooley High. Oh, we must not forgot a very young Michael J. Fox (Back To the Future, Family Ties) What a cast of people that would all go on to do awesome work!

This was high quality television. The ensemble was top of the line and the script was nuanced. Like CBS other show "The Waltons" it was set during the Depression but this show explored the life's of two Families. One White, the other Black. The Families knew and cared for one another but lived with the backdrop of Jim Crow.  The show was not ruled by cliches and did not brush over Jim Crow.

WD Hall to his Wife. "Why did you say that we would be at "Aunt Jenny's" ceremony at the "Colored" Church?

Mrs. Hall: "Why wouldn't we be? In WW 1 when you were all shot up and hurt she nursed you back to health and "Aunt Jenny" nursed half the town back to health. She wants her Family there. I've known her my whole life." 

W.D Hall:  You think that I don't know that? I agree and am happy that she is being honored as an "Old Sister" she certainly deserves it but We ain't Family and "She" ain't your Aunt"! (Ant)  It seems hypocritical is all.  They invite us to their church but do you see anyone from "Our" Church invite any of them?

The episode revolved around the the Afrikan American Matriarch "Auntie Jenny" being honored by her Church as an "Old Sister". This honor was bestowed on one every 25 years to a Woman who had great character and charity.  This was something that Alex Haley recalled from his childhood in the South.

From Left to Right Mista Jaycee, Martin and Odie Hawkins
Photo property of  V. Wade-Williams
After the show ended and the lights came up, Mr. Martin Gostanian from the Paley Center presented Odie with a vintage copy of a TV Guide magazine, from the week when the "Old Sister" episode of Palmerstown USA aired.  Odie would go to win an NAACP Image Award for writing the episode. 

The show was nuanced and well thought out. Check out the above dialogue. This was courageous even after "Roots" and certainly for 1980 era Television. I doubt the show would even be made in today's hyper politically correct date and age. 

I was immensely proud of Odie and the work that he allowed to come through him.  "Palmerstown USA" may not have succeeded as a Television program but it was and is still great Television. 


BE Prayerful! BE Mindful! BE Careful!

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