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Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Black Man Buried in Lodz

A few days ago, I visited the grave of Ira Aldridge. He is buried in Lodz. For those who do not know this name, he was a well-known actor throughout Europe in the 1800's. He was also an African American and born in New York City. His life was excitingly different as he was a classical actor and a man of color at a time when Black people in the US were slaves. Ira Aldridge was able to become not only a free man, but also an artist of the highest esteem. While in Poland performing Othello, he died and was buried in Lodz.

Although this is only a small part of this man's life history, when I came upon his grave, I was suddenly moved. Poles like to visit graves it seems and as I adapt to a Polish environment and lifestyle, I have visited more cemeteries in the past year than I have in all my life in the U.S. I was moved by this grave because I couldn’t help but wonder why Ira Aldridge was buried in Lodz. After a quick Google, I was able to get a brief story of his journey here.

Seeing this gravesite purged a little more of that feeling of isolation I have been experiencing. I had a wonderful feeling of belonging. This makes me wonder just how much I have worked at being a part of the place I now live. If a dead person has brought me closer to feeling at home, then it is time I make more of an effort to be at home. So now I am wondering if Mr. Aldridge speak Polish? … Did he have friends here? … Did he like it here? … Was he really accepted here or was he some exotic oddity? More research needs to be done!

In any case, this famous actor has given me a new sense of belonging and purpose. I know this may all sound so strange, but I have been moved in some positive way because of this event. I feel inspired to write about him. I feel inspired to write a play about him and his life. I do not feel I came upon him by accident … I am meant to take some sort of positive action and this blog is the start.

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