“Pop!.. Pop!.. Pop!…”
This was the sound of the gun that murdered George Raye as his 18-year-old son, Carl, looked on.
And, as he watched his father take his last breath, all he could say was, “God No! No, God, Why?!” His father had been shot to death because of the fact that Carl did not say “yes sir” and “no sir” to a white man.
“A Killing in Choctaw” is a one-man, two-act play performed by comedian Carl Raye about his experiences in the years following the death of his father. It centers around the anger and guilt that Raye experienced throughout his life from this event.
The play, held Thursday night in Lee Hall Auditorium, was hosted by Tameka Hobbs, a professor of history.
The audience, comprised of about 125 people, sat silently as Raye recounted the vivid, graphic images of his father’s murder and the following trial. Both laughter and tears were expressed by audience members as Raye told his life story.
In the play, Raye took the reader inside of his mind and heart and into 1962 Butler, Ala. in Choctaw County. Through his words, the audience becomes witness to the murder of an innocent man and the emotional destruction of another.
Raye recounts the day his father’s accused murderer, Bill Carlisle, was put on trial for the murder of a black man.
Raye describes the experience as being a “comedy show for white people.” He said that during the trial he was taunted, jeered at and laughed at by white people.
During the play, Raye described how the defense attorney, told him that he was the reason why his father died and that it was all his fault. Raye remembers being called “boy” and an “uppity nigger” in the courtroom.
Raye also described how the play experience impressed upon his mind that he was the cause of his father’s death, and for almost 40 years, Raye would carry with him guilt and anger.
The play showed how for many years, Raye suffered with bouts of depression, nervous breakdowns, and multiple personalities.
The audience watched as the play recounted Raye having re-occurring nightmares about the event. Then one day in 1984, Raye decided to forgive Carlisle for murdering his father.
Raye said that at the moment, he said the word “forgive” as if it was a “great weight had been taken off me. I felt alive and free.” Raye had built up so much anger and guilt, that the emotions were beginning to consume him. He attributed forgiveness to having “saved my life.”
Raye’s performance was very dynamic. The audience was able to connect with his life experiences through his conveyance of some deeply emotional words and actions.
As he recounts his father’s death, Raye cries, and the audience can feel his pain. He is both narrator and victim. The environment was relaxed and casual which allowed for a smooth transition into the discussion that followed play.
Raye led the discussion and opened with the question “Why do we (black people) hate ourselves?”
During the discussion, Raye hit upon topics such as the consequences of Willie Lynch on black people, negative consequences of integration, and why “bad things happen to strong black men,” and lack of support within our own communities and how these things continue to affect us today.
The discussion was very insightful into some of the problems with black America today.
A “Killing in Choctaw” proved to be an excellent reminder of our cultural past and struggles in America.
Raye was an example of both great success and great pain that many black people today have experienced in their search to overcome the Jim Crow South, racism, segregation and prejudices that are still manifested today.
Contact Jacquelynn M. Hatter at firstname.lastname@example.org.