August Wilson, 1945-2005: An Appreciation | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

August Wilson, 1945-2005: An Appreciation

In the Hill District the Centre Avenue poets, which included August and Rob Penny -- they became like the community flamethrowers. They were not only the clearest in their vision and analysis of how to liberate ourselves but also they were able to capture that reality in their poetry The first play I did was the first one he actually mounted on stage, which was Jitney! ... in 1982. That's when we knew August had something very special. Pittsburgh will have to create an appropriate statement in celebration of what August means to the city.  - Sala Udin, City Councilor representing the Hill District.


He dug into our bones and brought out blackness -- our rich, vibrant culture full of colors and contradictions. -- Luqman Salaam, a.k.a. B-Tree, poet, playwright and activist.  


August Wilson synthesized history and drama on a scale that we had not seen before. He was able to distill the vastness of tradition and the weight of history down into the lives of individuals. We shared a perspective that the history of black people in this country should function as a source of strength as opposed to shame. He rendered history as a vital, animate force that one way or another we are all forced to grapple with. -- William Jelani Cobb, assistant professor of history at Spelman College.


I guess August Wilson is confirmation of the talent and genius of Pittsburgh.  It's inspiring to travel outside of this commonwealth and see how respected one of ours is. He's what Biggie is to Brooklyn and he'll always be the King of Pittsburgh. -- Kamau Ware, president of Bridgespotters artist collective; exhibitions and performance coordinator for the African American Culture Center.


August Wilson was the first playwright I learned about in East Hills Elementary School. From that moment on, I began writing, reacquainting myself with acting, and eventually performed in one of his plays, Seven Guitars, earlier this year during The August Wilson Festival at Penn State University. I am forever grateful to August for digging so deep into the soul of the collective story that all black people share here in America, especially here in Pittsburgh, and for having the courage to be the gift he was born to be. -- Leslie "Ezra" Smith, local poet and actor.


What I will miss the most is his gentle spirit and his willingness to listen to every writer or artist who came his way, and the support he gave to the community of artists. My fondest memory of him is seeing him direct my daughter in Sister Son/Ji, a one-act play that Sonia Sanchez had written I think in 1969. It was just awesome watching him direct. - Dr. Vernell Lillie, president and artistic director of Kuntu Repertory Theater


When I finally saw Jitney and Joe Turner's Come and Gone I understood the August Wilson hype in a tangible way. The lyricism that suffused his work was revelatory. I was literally stunned by the poetic monologues in Joe Turner. August Wilson was an artist first and a celebrity, well, way, way down in the order of his priorities. - Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist


The most important thing is that he saved my life, mentally. I let him read some of my poetry and he made some comments, saying he liked my style. We finally got a chance to sit down and have a meaningful conversation and we're in Africa, so that had a very huge impact on me. Growing up, I was afraid to express myself. I grew up around a bunch of boys, so that wasn't what you did. Mr. Wilson unlocked those doors to release my imagination to the paper. - Mark Southers, artistic director, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater

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