For Release: November 29, 2007
Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
Black Activists Criticize Local NAACP, School Officials for Censoring Ohio School Play
Washington, D.C. - The Lakota East High School dramatic production of the Agatha Christie novel Ten Little Indians -- initially cancelled by school administrators after it was called racially insensitive by a local NAACP leader -- is back on, but with changes that imply the play will be compromised by political correctness.
Members of the Project 21 black leadership network call the actions of Butler County NAACP president Gary Hines inappropriate and detrimental to race relations. They say it presents the appearance of a shakedown of the southwestern Ohio school system. They are also critical of school officials for buckling under pressure from Hines.
"In this era of unprecedented equality, and particularly when it affects impressionable and innocent young people, Gary Hines is stirring the pot of racial animosity with a pretty big spoon," said Project 21 fellow Deneen Borelli. "It appears he whipped up a controversy that may generate business for him. Some people would call that a shakedown."
East Lakota students worked for months to produce the play "Ten Little Indians," which the Educational Theatre Association says is one of the top 25 plays produced by high schools nationwide. Based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, it is a murder mystery about a killer stalking a group of strangers trapped on an island. The killer knocks over Indian figurines after a murder is committed.
When it was first published in England in 1939, the title used the "n-word" instead of Indian, and the original English book cover had black figures on it. The American version, first published in 1940, as always used the term “Indian.” The stage version is sometimes titled "And Then There Were None."
Hines -- the owner of the GPH Consultants diversity training company and a reported long-time critic of the Lakota Local Schools system -- implied he was going to lead a protest of the play, which was supposed to be performed this weekend. He told the Cincinnati Enquirer the play is about "genocide" and that "kids don't have enough information about diversity." Referring to the original name and artwork of the novel published overseas over 70 years ago, he told the Cincinnati Post, "We can't run away from that." He said, however, he would not oppose the play being done by a community or professional theater group.
Lakota Board of Education president Joan Powell, referring to Hines' past criticism of the school system, told the Enquirer she believed Hines' financial goals may influence his actions.
Superintendent Mike Taylor today said the play will be performed next month, but with changes. It will be performed under its alternative title, contain unspecified additional material and will feature what the Associated Press describes as "conversations and other activities" that Taylor said will "honor diversity in the community."
Also unspecified is any participation by Hines -- paid or unpaid -- in the school's new diversity-related programming.
"To claim that harm will be caused by students re-creating a 1939 Agatha Christie novel, via a theatre production, is the height of political correctness run amuck," said Project 21 member Joe Hicks. "The trajectory of this nation's racial and ethnic relations has produced a radically altered ethnic and racial landscape. Today, America is the most tolerant industrial society in the world. The assumption that some imaginary hoops have to be jumped through to avoid hurting the feelings of some ultra-sensitive individuals with defined political agendas is simply incorrect."
Project 21 chairman Mychal Massie added: "This ridiculous capitulation further compromises what was already a grotesque abrogation of the students’ creative environment. The Lakota Local Schools is attempting to straddle the fence of racial intimidation. Those innocent school children have the right to their creative enterprise without being subjected to race mongers who are intent on inculcating their condemnable agendas. Instead of coming down on the side of common sense, the school district signaled their willingness to support this person's malevolence."
Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11 or Project21@nationalcenter.org, or visit Project 21's website at http://www.project21.org/P21Index.html.