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"MISSISSIPPI" CHARLES BEVEL

The Blues

"The 'Blues' does not mean black music. It means having the courage or audacity to speak to what is in your heart without consulting your head. That human attribute is colorless. But what is now termed the 'Blues' has to be placed in the context of the unique way in which this music form was derived. Its African roots cannot be denied, but most of its energy was and continues to be acquired from a people being forced to continuously live on the outer edges of the majority culture in America. From slavery, through legal segregation, to the many present forms of isolation, blacks have developed unique ways of expressing the constant pain and frustration that comes with being perpetually guaranteed. And since music is the easiest way to express matters of the heart, the 'Blues' (the pain and the joy, whether directed inwardly or outwardly) is, and will continue to be, the most persistent form of expressing matters of the heart in black culture in America."

--Mississippi Charles Bevel

Mississippi Charles Bevel, multi-media artist and lecturer began his professional career in 1973. From 1973 through 1983 he performed intermittently as a musician, including a self terminated one year stint as a recording artist on the A&M record label. During that ten year period the most meaningful of those years of Mississippi were spent performing as a duo with another songwriter/performer, Chic Streetman. They also worked as an opening act for such artists as Taj Majal, Richie Havens, Hoyt Axton; Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee, Doc Watson, B.B. King, Third World, Albert King, Gil Scott Heron, etc.

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Mississippi's first appearance on stage as an actor was with the East Cleveland Community Theatre in Cleveland OH, in 1986. Very soon there after he was concurrently working at KARAMU--also located in Cleveland, and a venue well know in the theatre community as the training round for some of America's finest black actors. While at Karamu, Mississippi performed major roles in several productions including August Wilson's PIANO LESSON (Doaker) and Sam-Art William's HOME (Cephus Miles). His professional theatre debut was with the Denver Center Theatre Company in 1994, where he co-wrote and performed in DCTC's world premiere of "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues".

Although the majority of his work over the last few years has been in theatre, doing mostly dramatic roles, Mississippi is equally comfortable working as a writer, visual artist, actor or singer-composer. His theatre credits include I AM A MAN (Bluesman) Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester MI; HOME (Musical Director) Rhynsburger Theatre, Columbia, MO; SPUNK (Guitar Man) Smokebrush Theatre, Colorado Springs, CO; LET ME LIVE (Musical Director) Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL; IT AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT THE BLUES began at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in June of this year.)

Currently Mississippi is recording a CD of original music that is to be released in December of 2000.

*IT AIN'T NOTHIN' BUT THE BLUES was nominated for four Tony Awards during the 1999 season on Broadway. Mississippi himself was nominated for 'best book' in a musical.

 

MY EVOLUTION

An Autobiographical Sketch
by Mississippi Charles Bevel

I was born the fourteenth of seventeen children, to cotton-plantation parents in the Delta of Mississippi.

For a time covering some thirty years after my birth, in periods of one month to less than two years, I had spent time in Mississippi counties like Sunflower, Leflore, Tunica and Choctaw; on cotton plantations like Joe Perry's and Joseph Pugh's; in small towns like Wier, Itta Bena, Swifttown and Greenwood. Then it was out of Mississippi and on to big cities like Memphis, St. Louis and Cleveland. And then, on to military bases in Illinois, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Hawaii, Japan, Kwajuluen Island, Midway, Alaska and California.

Working, always working; as a cotton picker, a shoeshine, stock clerk, dishwasher, grocery clerk, aviation electronics technician, naval in-flight radio operator, electrician, steel mill laborer, television engineer and ICBM missile test technician. To all of that--the places and the jobs--there are those who can bear witness.

In May of 1968, I returned from Africa, where I had lived for three and one-half years. That three and one-half years in Monrovia, Liberia was the longest that I had ever lived in any one place in all those thirty years.

During those many years there was no one, other than myself, who could have borne witness to the artists gestating inside of me; artists barely kept alive, but who could sing, write, act, and create visual art. At thirty-one the musician was born; at forty, the writer; at forty-eight, twins, the actor and the visual artist. Giving birth to those mysterious personalities, my bumbling attempts at nursing those babies, was not only an unnerving disruption to my own life, but extremely confusing and disturbing to family and friends as well.

At sixty, there is some disquiet in my life, but hardly about death. Life has showered me with too much sweetness to leave me fretting over when death will appear to gather my bones. Any uneasiness is about the illusion of time; not enough time left to divulge my revelations; my mysteries. Not those places mentioned above or the people met along the way--the world is well acquainted with those places and faces. Sure, I've been to forty seven states and ten foreign countries. But do you really want to read another personal travelogue? How about some real biography; the feelings, the thoughts, the uncommon visions and singular experiences that we all have had but which few of us can find the courage to share. There is the powerful hope that someday through my "other children"-- those half nourished artists that I have given birth to--you will get to taste, see, hear, touch, smell, and even balance against your own, my mysteries--the real biography of Mississippi Charles Bevel.

An alone life, yes. But hardly a lonely one!

 

Destination Freedom: Black Radio Days is a radio series aired on KGNU 88.5 FM at 8:00 pm MST on the third Monday of every month. It is a powerful series creating awareness of the role Blacks played in creating social changes. In addition the series will be live on 89.1 FM in Ft. Collins, 93.7 FM Ward and KGNU.org. The series is a 2 time winner of the "Scribes In Excellence Award" presented by the Colorado Association of Black Journalist judged by a national panel. Destination Freedom/Black Radio Days profiles the lives of African American Heroes and Sheroes and is sponsored by BlackRadioDays.com, Black and Read Books and Tapes (303) 467-3236, and The Urban Spectrum.

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