Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What Pippin and I (kind of) have in common

From page A6 | November 08, 2013 |

Check it out

What: Davis High School production of “Pippin”

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Nov. 15-16, 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Brunelle Performance Hall at DHS, 315 W. 14th St.

Tickets: $16 general, $12 seniors, $10 students. Tickets for children under 13 are two for $10.

Info: Visit

Full disclosure. My daughter Canela is the stage manager for the Davis High School production of “Pippin,” which opens Friday and continues through next weekend.

The play has been adapted by DHS drama director extraordinaire Gwyneth Bruch to be suitable and fun for the entire family. Great music. Lots of dancing. Pageantry. The DHS student drama board, called FRED, is offering two tickets for $10 for children under 13 years. Let me know at if that is a still too much of a financial stretch for your family, and I’ll make arrangements to have tickets waiting for you at “will call” (the ticket booth), free of charge.

I know Gwyneth and the student board don’t want anyone, any child, to miss this play for lack of money. DHS theater has been such a blessing to our family, to my children and to me in particular. I did not grow up with theater as part of my family’s leisure activities. DHS theater has given me a second, accessible chance to engage with this unique art form, sometimes funny, sometimes visually stunning, sometimes swift and clear in social commentary.

Sometimes, I just weep, like the week Barack Obama was elected president for the first time, and the DHS young people performed “Les Misérables”: Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men. It is a song of a people. Who will not be slaves again …

Canela’s involvement and insights have brought back my memories of the young, self-absorbed Pippin, eager and relentlessly coached by “The Players” to do something, to achieve something great with his life. The Players in particular misguidedly convince him that he deserves to achieve greatly, to accomplish mightily, that the only life that counts is the one of wide and public recognition and acclaim.

I’ll return to Pippin later.

In the next couple of weeks, I am truly privileged and humbled to receive two awards for my work concerning youth, racial inequality and social justice. On Nov. 23, it will be the Sacramento Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women’s 2013 Fannie Lou Hamer Community Activist Advocacy Award. This Saturday, The Davis Vanguard is honoring me with its Activist of the Year Award. I am well aware that there are those dear, dear community members and colleagues who have nominated me for both of these awards. Thank you.

David Greenwald is the journalist/activist/warrior-for-justice who founded The Vanguard ( The Vanguard provides incisive, well-written pieces that cover the underbelly of our reputedly idyllic community. His work and dedication to justice as an ideal and to Davis, with love, are transformational.

In interviewing me for The Vanguard, David asked me something like, “What makes me do this work? What motivates me?” I offered: my mentors, who use nonviolent social change strategies to create the kind of nation and communities in which they wanted to be able to live after their activism reached the end of crisis stage. For example, my paternal grandfather was president of the Charleston, S.C., branch of the NAACP in the first half of the last century and often told my mom: “I’ll never see the changes I’m working for. I’m working for my children and my grandchildren.”

I never met the Rev. Rip Isaiah Lemon Sr., but I am living the change he courageously sacrificed for. I know you have heard this story so many times in my column. I repeat it to myself often, to remind myself of the shoulders of those I stand on, too many to mention even from right here in Davis.

And then there is my family — Jorge, Canela and Gabriel — who (almost) never wear thin of patience for my exhausting idealism.

I mostly prefer my actions and my love to witness to my faith in Jesus Christ. St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach always and if necessary, use words.” But I want to be specific now.

So much of my persistence and tenacity, certainly my physical and emotional energy, and my patience, come from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. While on Earth, Jesus was the master community organizer, honoring and speaking to women and those of despised ethnic groups, lifting up and spending time with those forbidden friendship by cultural and religious statute. For me, Jesus is the example of relational, transformational and servant leadership that I follow.

Certainly, all of my hope for a better, more just world come from Jesus of Nazareth. Each of us has great value, but sorry, folks: All of my hope that individuals and institutions can change, all of my patience in that endeavor, come from the promise of the love and forgiveness of the One who saved me even from myself, and from a life devoid of meaning beyond my evolutionary potential.

The Rev. William Jessup said, “The two most important days of your life: the day you were born. And the day you find out why.”

This is what I kind of have in common with Pippin. A hunger for meaning.

I bet the DHS drama folks and students will not appreciate my very personal and spiritual application of and reflection on their theatrical fun and excellent, nonreligious hard work. The play “Pippin,” as silly and light-hearted and entertaining as it is, can be a way into discussion with our children and adolescents about the difference between achievement for power, competition and fame’s sake alone versus a life of meaning, of a rich network of intentionally nurtured, healthful relationships.

Please forgive me if letting you deeper into my heart and my motivation to serve Davis has offended you. Join me at DHS for some good, nonspiritual silliness and belly laughs over the next two weekends. The young people have worked so hard and long to entertain you.

— Jann Murray-García, M.D., M.P.H., is a Davis parent and pediatrician. She shares this monthly column with Jonathan London. Reach her at




Jann L. Murray-Garcia



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