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Feature Mon Nov 02 2009

Dreams Deferred: an Interview with Messiah Equiano

EQUIANO 1.jpgIt is no secret that Chicago has experienced a major upsurge in youth violence; recently, I sat down with Messiah Equiano, filmmaker and founder of Operation Safe Passage, to find out what he and his organization are doing to address this issue.

Tell me about Operation Safe Passage.

Messiah Equiano: Operation Safe Passage was incorporated in June 2009. I'm also a filmmaker, and I did a documentary about a little girl who was killed in the Englewood neighborhood at her own birthday party. I've been following this youth violence issue for about three years now, which obviously, is continuing to be a problem, especially with hundreds of young people having been shot in Chicago the last two years. Seeing this devastation, I wanted to be a solution to the problem. I would see marches, rallies, etc., but in my opinion, with this generation, those things weren't necessarily working.

You came up with the idea to address this ugly reality through the theatre -- how do you hope to connect to youth in ways the marches and rallies have not?

No offense to anyone, but I wanted to try to reach them differently -- through scholarships, mentoring programs, and life-changing media productions, which is what drove my decision to write a stage play, Dreams Deferred. Also, people like to be entertained, so I wanted to create a message through entertainment.

In an "infotainment" sort of way?


On your website, you say: "An entire generation is at stake." With the murder of Derrion Albert and most recently the McClendon murders, Chicago has been in the headlines a lot lately. With regard to the murders, what do you think is missing? Are we [adults] dropping the ball somewhere?

It starts in the home; if everyone who brings a child in the world takes care of his/her responsibility, there would be a lot less of this; however, other factors including poverty, unemployment, and drug abuse, create a cesspool, too.

To see those ills everyday, they think, "No one cares."

"No one cares. I don't care about myself or my surroundings so why should I care about you?"

Let's talk about Dreams Deferred.

Dreams Deferred is my first stage play and it has all Chicago actors and actresses in it. The idea came from one day when I was watching my documentary, Nugget: One of the mothers, whose daughter was killed, mentioned that she was a "straight-A" student who wanted to become a doctor. It was such a loss to society; I mean, we don't know what she could've done with her life. Then, a bell rang in my head and I thought to myself, "Wow, what if Barack Obama had gotten killed by a stray bullet" and "What if I wrote a play that shows this so people can really see the long-term effects of this violence?"

DREAMS CAST.jpgAnd an idea was born.

Yes. I wrote the script, got suggestions from some of my "theater" friends of mine, revised it, held auditions and here we are!

What can you tell us about the play?

The play has three central characters because I feel there are three kinds of people in the world: The person who knows where he or she is going in life, the one who knows where he or she is going in life, but might stray towards the "in" crowd, and finally, the one who is just totally lost.

Hence the title.

Yes. Without giving away too much, you'll see why it's called Dreams Deferred.

What's next?

We are looking to make Dreams Deferred into a feature film. We hope to start shooting around the first of the year and take it globally. After all, this violence isn't just a Chicago problem.


Messiah also told me that the ultimate message of the play is to prevent violence from happening, and that as a society, we need to be more proactive than reactive. I couldn't agree more.

Dreams Deferred is playing for one night only, Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Illinois Institute of Technology's Hermann Hall Auditorium, 3241 S. Federal St., Chicago. Advance tickets are $20 for adults; $10 for high school students with a photo ID. Doors open at 6pm; show time is at 7pm. For more information, visit the Save Our Dreams website or call 773-979-2383.

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Orlanda Clark / November 3, 2009 12:37 AM

I think that this a much needed article and play. I am tired of this violence. Before it was babies having babies and now ON TOP OF THAT we have babies KILLING babies. This has got to STOP.

Thank you for this article and I can't wait for the play.

Thank you to Messiah Equiano for his vision.

G. BROWN / November 3, 2009 10:33 AM

Thank you Mrs. Williams for this excellent piece. We need this play more than we need all of these rallies and marches, which include people who show up after the tradegy. Thank you also Brother Equiano, you're approach to curtail this violence is the best I've heard thus far!!!

Precise / November 3, 2009 11:36 AM

Great interview. I hope this play ha the ability to transform lives

Patty Droogan / November 3, 2009 2:35 PM

I would also like to thank you for doing this article. This is what we need to see on channel 2 5 and 7 news, positive things to change the environment we live in. I am from Bolingbrook and the violence is out here as well, I will be trying to get a hold of the principle at the High School to get him to come out. My hope is that Dreams Deferred can come to all the Jr High Schools and the High Schools in the City as well as the Suburbs. Messiah you have done a wonderful job with your 1st documentary and now Dreams Deferred. God Bless You as you move forward and let the masses of people open their eyes for these are all of our children out here.

Charlette Coogler / November 3, 2009 3:04 PM

I love the interview. It was well placed and spoken. I believe this play will open eyes of all people young and wise. People really need to get involved with childern nowadays. Generations have changed drastically. I remember when my grandmother use to yell and fuss at all the kids on the block when they where doing wrong and it wasn't an issue with the parents of that child. Now alot of parents are fussing and arguing with the person that tries to tell that child they are wrong. I think childern need to be told by more people when they are doing wrong and a pat on the back when they are doing right. But not enough people are involved in these kids lives. That's maybe why they don't care about others because they don't have enough care in their own.

Messiah I love the steps you have made and will be making to change these kids lives in many ways they can't imagine. I love the way you are being the man that most people need to see action come in to play. I bless you in success and to get this message across to many homes.

Tonya Boddie / November 3, 2009 3:29 PM

It is my prayer that God continues to use Operation Safe Passage to bring on a radical change that will span across state lines. The launch of “Dreams Deferred” is only the beginning of what God has in store for Chicago. As it stands now, there are too many of our youth sleeping inside a cocoon of fear, pain, discontentment, anger, despair and self doubt. It is through alternative channels such as “Dreams Deferred” that we can renew their minds and reach the unreachable. It is my prayer that God uses “Dreams Deferred” to accomplish goals that transcend human limitations. May he continue to cover Messiah Equiano and equip him with the creativity and insight to provide a safe passage for many years to come.

Joe Craig / November 3, 2009 3:34 PM

Excellent article and very appropriate for this moment.

Please continue to bring these types of discussions to the forefront.

Safia Jalila / November 4, 2009 9:24 AM

I am pleased with the work that you are doing to send a positive message about violence, hence some of the negative situations that have occured with our youth. I hope that many lives will be touched by this production and that violence will begin to CEASE not only in Chicago but everywhere. I am happy to see this message being delivered in a creative environment. It brings a fresh approach which in my opinon is needed. My hopes for this play and the people that are involved in it are abundant. Continue to work for a cause larger than self and continue to be blessed while you are a blessing onto others. Messiah, I am truly proud of you and all that are involved.

Gloria Castillo / January 14, 2010 9:44 PM

I was just informed that you are playing Dream Deferred at Clemente H.S. on 01/15/10. Please let me know if you are planning on playing this in the near future as I want to heavily promote this play. My son was just killed on 01/04/10 and I need to get this message out to as many kids out here by Marquette Park as many of our kids are dying out here!! TOO MANY!!

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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