To My Unborn Child: A Love Letter from Fred Hampton
To My Unborn Child: A Love Letter from Fred Hampton
A One Man Show Featuring Richard Bradford about the ideas, the life and Death of Chairman Fred.

Murdered by Chicago Police on December 4, 1969, BLack PAnther, Fred Hampton was a voice of social change snuffed out by a fearful government. Now His voice and vision can be heard again in this captivating play.

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THE STORY of the PLAY

In 2014, I was called to replace an actor in a performance by Iron Age Theatre called “The People's History: The Howard Zinn Project.”

This is where I met Fred Hampton.  In the show, I was asked to perform one of Fred’s speeches about class struggle.  As I read his monologue about the masses being poor and about unification of the masses, I fell in love…in love with Fred’s ideas about revolution and power to all people.  I knew right away that his words were needed now as much as ever!

John Doyle agreed with me, and together we decided that creating a one-man show about Fred Hampton was not only important, it was also necessary.

I began the writing process by researching what is known about Fred Hampton.  I found inspiring speeches and videos about the young revolutionary that led me to dig deeper into the events that were happening around him during his short life.  Through this research, I learned about the years when Fred was a young man, a teenager, and a young adult-- events that seemed to shape his ideas and set him on his revolutionary path.

As I read about Fred, and as I listened to his speeches, I was struck by a constant theme. Fred had a radical love not only for the people, but especially for the children. But what really pulled at my heart was finding out that on the night of his murder, he was sleeping next to the mother of his child, Deborah Johnson, who was 8 months pregnant with his son.

It was heartbreaking to me that a man who was filled with love for children would never be able to talk to his own son.  Because he was murdered before his son was born, he would never be able to show him how to be a revolutionary black man within an oppressive system.

Before becoming an actor and writer, I was a true “hip hop head.”  I spent most of my life listening to and loving the music of Tupac Shukar.   As I learned more and more about the tragic loss of Fred Hampton, and the sad truth that he died before he ever met his son, I kept hearing one of my favorite Tupac songs in my head. The song is called “To My Unborn Child,” which is a spoken letter from Tupac to the child he hopes to have in the future.

Tupac’s song inspired me to use the format of a love letter to his son as a vehicle to talk about Fred’s revolutionary ideas.  This way, Fred would be able to tell his son who he is, what he believed, and why he fought.  He could pass these ideas on to the next generation, while commissioning his son (and the audience) to action.

I used Fred Hampton's own words, as well as my own, to paint the picture of Fred’s life.  Combining his prose with my heartfelt passion for his cause, I crafted the love letter I believed he would have written.  I did a bulk of the writing while I was in Cincinnati performing in a show.  In a loft full of actors, and on a halfway deflated air mattress, I researched Fred Hampton. I wanted to write stories that were relatable to the present-day issues plaguing poor and black communities.

I came back to Philadelphia with a draft chock full of ideas and feelings that were simultaneously about Fred and personal to me and my own experiences and beliefs.  My next big job was to edit my raw materials to make the story clearer, leaner and more active. I decided to have Fred tell his story by interacting with other “characters” (all played by me) on stage. With the help of the theater community here in Philadelphia, I workshopped the play several times until it ultimately became the piece of critically-important historical art that it is today!

 
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Bringing Each Character to life challenge me as an actor and the audiences understanding of racism, capitalism and the Panthers..

Rich Bradford portrays a racist Cop in To My UNborn Child

 

With the help of the theater community here in Philadelphia, I work-shopped the play several times. There were readings at The Wooden Shoe Book Store in South Philly, The 5 Saints Distillery in Norristown PA, and the Drake Theatre in Philly. The play opened at the 2017 Philadelphia Fringe festival and played to sold out houses at the Ethical Society of Philadelphia. The play returned months later on December 4 to commemorate Hampton’s murder at the Community Education Center in west Philly. The play has been produced at The Ice House in Bethlehem PA and Passage Theatre in Trenton NJ. This progression of rehearsal, revision and performance continued until it ultimately became the piece of critically-important historical art that it is today!

Much love,

Rich Bradford

TOUR DATES AND LOCATIONS

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Who are the Black Panthers?

The Black Panther Party in one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented social/political organization in American history. Their story, perverted by COINTELPRO and government propaganda, is far more complex and important. The organization, founded for the purpose of protecting blacks from the police in the Bay area, blossomed into a nation wide (and if fact international) organization dedicated to defending people from police violence, providing human services to the poor, looking to increase minority representation in government and educating people. Their cry “All power to the People” can be taken literally, as the organization wanted to turn the nations power from the rich to be distributed among the full populace. We do not shy away from the troubled ending of the organization nor the organizations regular use of guns. Those issues do not overshadow the philosophic underpinnings of the group, a group whose purpose was to protect Blacks but open to the creation of groups for other races.

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WHo is Fred HAmpton?

Born on Aug 30, Fred Hampton was a member of the Black Panther Party in Chicago and one of the visionaries behind the Rainbow Coalition. He took the foundation ideas of the panthers and put them into practice. His focus on education, class, poverty and a reorganization of the economic system pushed the Panther ideology forward.

He united gangs across Chicago in pursuit of a more equitable social system and safety for the underprivileged. He was murdered in his home at 4am on December 4, 1969 when he was only 21 years old. The murder, orchestrated by the FBI and carried out by the Chicago police was supported by a traitor in his midst, O’Neill. More than 99 bullets were fired into the home and none out during the raid, and Hampton and one of his lieutenants were killed. Hampton lay beside his pregnant girlfriend. Both Deb Johnson, that girlfriend and his son Fred Hampton Jr survived.

Hampton death often overshadows the astounding acts of protest he participated in and the thoughtful ideas he presented.

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The Black PAnther Party

The Black Panther Party produced a variety of social service programs. Many of these have become stables of American culture.

Free Breakfast for Children: Getting donations from community businesses and staffed by volunteers, the Panther provided breakfast for children across the country.

The Black Panther Paper: This revolutionary document gave voice to issues of social justice, economic redistribution, unheard political voices and cultural perspectives from the Black community. Written, published and distributed by Panther volunteers all before desktop publishing

Free Ambulance Services: When ambulances refused to pick up Black people, members of the panther bought and ambulance with money raised from the community and provided free transportation for those in need regardless of color.

Health Clinics: today we are discussing medicare for all but the Panthers provided basic health care for free ion some of Americas most destitute regions.

Schools: The foundation of Panther ideology was about restructuring power in America, either through a socialist revolution or the attainment of political positions by people of color and to get there, the Panthers provided education that stretched beyond the limited Eurocentric public education system.

Protection for Seniors The panthers began by protecting Black from police harassment and eventually organized protection for seniors of crime ridden or socially disrupted communities.

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Bobby and Huey

Black Panther Party founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale  students at Merritt College in Oakland, California and bound together an ideology of political power, black pride and Marxism to build the philosophy the underscored the Panthers..
They began their advocacy by creating the Negro History Fact Group, which called on the school to offer classes in black history. Seale was an Engineer and Newton studied law.

Seale and Newton founded the Black Panther for Self-Defense in 1966 after police in San Francisco shot and killed an unarmed black teen named Matthew Johnson.

They together led the group which originally monitored police activity in relationship to Black people.

Both men were targeted by the FBI. Newton was charged and convicted of Manslaughter and Seale was charged with crimes in sevral cities. Both maintained their innocence and pushed fro radical acts to protect and nurture the Black community in America and the world.


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Rich Bradford

Richard Bradford is a Philly-based Actor and Playwright who has worked in theatre for over 10 years, across various cities and venues. He studied at the Freedom Theatre School in N. Philadelphia and Stella Alder Conservatory in NYC. Rich is committed to using theatre as a platform for social justice, with hopes of starting conversations and challenging echo chambers. Rich is the Asst. Artistic Director for Iron Age Theatre, with whom he has written and workshopped “To My Unborn Child: A Love Letter From Fred Hampton.” He is also a company member with Theatre In the X, whose mission is to produce free theatre (in Malcolm X Park) for an underserved community in West Philadelphia. Additionally, Rich is a company member of Curio Theatre, who produces plays from within the cannon and applies them to today’s Issues.

Growing up in East Germantown in a time where neighborhoods were hit with poverty, drugs, and violence, Richard could never had imagined performing on stage. But a fork-in-the-road moment in his life took him a down a more positive path, when he decided, on a whim, to walk into Freedom Theatre School. From there, his life was transformed.

Freedom Theatre gave Rich a strong foundation in storytelling. It showed him how to apply the love both within himself and for his culture to that storytelling. At Stella Alder, teachers such Jon Korkes gave him methods and techniques to help shape his craft. Working with amazing directors like John Doyle, Ryanne Dominguez, and Ozzie Jones (to name a few) also encouraged his development as a professional actor. And yes…he is still growing!

 

Assistant Artistic Director
Iron Age Theatre

Height
5 10"

Weight
180 lbs

Hair Color
Black

Eye Color
Brown

For all bookings contact RIchard Bradford at:
richnefstevens@yahoo.com

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