London-born Center Stage director Kwame Kwei-Armah on the turmoils back home
Kwame Kwei-Armah has only just settled into Baltimore and his tenure as artistic director of Center Stage. "It's head down and running to whichever meeting is next," he said Thursday.
But this week, he has understandably been distracted by the intense rioting back in his hometown of London. "I have been following events assiduously," he said.
Three of his four children are still in the U.K., due to arrive her later this month (a fourth child and his wife are already in the States.)
"My youngest went with his mother [Kwei-Armah's first wife] to pick up his grandmother at midnight Saturday in Tottenham, a street away from where the first big fire was," Kwei-Armah said. "You can understand how frightening that was. His last view of London was of flames and riot police. And my brother was ...
The children are now safe in a London suburb, but Kwei-Armah has not stopped thinking about what has been going on there. The latest news of a calmer situation has brought welcome relief.
"Today is the first day that tears haven't come to my eyes," he said.
"I grew up in a generation of riots in England in the '80s. I had hoped we had somehow gone past that. I am sad for my children that they had to see this."
The director spoke of mixed feelings, including anger at "the wanton self-destruction" of the rioters and at how "police have been treating young people in Britain for ages."
"A lot of talk from officialdom has focused solely on criminality," Kwame-Armah added. "Very little is being said about the huge underclass that exists in London, why the number is so big, why so many are from ethnic minorities. That's not looking for excuses, but reasons.
"It is a tremendously sad time for my country. These have been very painful days, enough to make me want to fly over there, grab a broom and help clean up."
SUN STAFF PHOTO AND REUTERS PHOTO