Project 2: Black Coffee and Green tea

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Black Coffee and Green Tea

By Sarah Barnitt

Synopsis: Grace Lee Boggs and Charlie Leduff meet in a diner and discuss (and often argue), their opinions on Urban farming, hot beverages, and ultimately, their undying optimism for the city.

 (The scene opens up in a dark, dingy diner on the outskirts of Detroit. Charlie LeDuff and Grace Lee Boggs are sitting at a table- an unlikely pair. Charlie Leduff drinks Black Coffee and Boggs drinks Green Tea. They are in the middle of an argument.)

BOGGS:

… (like she’s been giving an interview)

Tell FOX News I’ll be happy to let them shoot at the Boggs School, provided the parents sign the waivers and allow their children to be video-taped while they work in the garden.

LEDUFF:

(writing this down in his notebook)

Thank you very much, Grace. I’ll pass it onto my superior. (He puts the notebook away and takes a sip of his coffee. Pensively.) I don’t get it.

BOGGS:

Well, they’re all minors, so the parents have to sign the forms…

LEDUFF:

(cutting her off)

No, not that. The gardening in general. I don’t mean any disrespect, Grace, but I don’t understand why people believe all of the sudden that all of Detroit issues can be straightened out by turning the streets into farms.

BOGGS:

The mission of the Boggs School, Charlie, is to Nourish. We cultivate thinkers. Knowledgeable, community minded young people. We bring them together through the garden.

LEDUFF:

(Exclamatory)

You can’t just plant fucking squash and expect the fundamental problems to go away. It’s a city-not a damn plantation.

BOGGS:

I don’t think the squash deserves a “fuck”

LEDUFF:

(a bit taken aback)

I don’t know if I’ve ever heard you swear, Grace

BOGGS:

(Knowingly)

I wish I could say the same about you.

LEDUFF:

(proceeding with caution)

Grace, it’s not that I don’t believe that you’re not doing good things. I’m simply skeptical! Planting trees instead of supplementing law enforcement?  Sowing the fields instead of getting the crooks and asshats out of office? ’With that logic we’re a hop-skip and a jump from “peace, land, and bread” and little red books.

BOGGS:

That’s certainly not the way I see it.

LEDUFF
(takes a sip of black coffee and talks sarcastically)

Please enlighten me.

BOGGS:

(Knowingly, like Yoda)

They’re taking their lives by the reigns.

LEDUFF:

(downs the rest of his cup.)

I was never one for metaphors.

BOGGS:

You’ll get ulcers if you drink your coffee that quickly.

LEDUFF:

I think I can handle an ulcer or two.

BOGGS:

You have to know that it’s not about farming, Charlie. It’s about living.

(CHARLIE just stares at Grace. A waiter comes by and refills their drinks and sets the food down in front of them. Leduff has a huge plate of pancakes and starts tearing into them like a wolf. Grace eats hers much more delicately and stares judgmentally at Leduff. After a moment)

It’s not Communism. It’s nothing of that sort.We don’t need a working class revolution, they’ve forced the workers out out. This revolution is so much bigger than class, Charlie. It’s humanity. Men, women, children, black, white, Chinese, everyone. They need change. I don’t teach people to accept their lot in life until some great power can fix it.  The tendency is to look to leaders to end struggles. They can’t do that anymore. I teach them to take back control.

LEDUFF:

Yeah. The masses regaining control of the city.  That’s why they torched it in the sixties.

(scoffs)

Gruesome anarchy, “taking back control.”

BOGGS:

Doesn’t “collectivism” look better than “gruesome anarchy?”

            LEDUFF:

I suppose, but I still believe that actually supporting the fire department is more important than your fucking butternut squash.  For god’s sake, we give Baghdad 150 millions dollars a year so they can put out fires. Now, I don’t know much about Iraqui fire, but I’m pretty sure a house burns down the same way no matter where the hell you are. All of these grassroots types are nice, but it’s not going to solve the real issues. To be quite honest, It still looks a hell of a lot like sharecropping to me

BOGGS:

(insistently)

Charlie they don’t have any other choice. It gives people nutrition, gets them to know their neighbors. It’s not just farming, Charlie. Of course it isn’t. We’re teaching the young people to relate to the earth in a different way. It brings people’s together, this initiative. That’s what’s important.

LEDUFF:

(realizing she’s right to an extent)

I’m not doubting that the initiative has good outcomes.

BOGGS:

(Laughs knowingly to herself)

And I’d a garden over a casino every day

LEDUFF:

That, Grace, is something we both can agree on.

(He raises his glass to clink)

            Fuck the casino economy!

 (She clinks with him and drinks her tea.)

LEDUFF:

(bitter)

Casinos. It’s like spraying perfume after you shit and thinking the smell will go away.

BOGGS:

(agreeing)

They’re fools- every last one of them. Bread and circuses won’t do any good for the city- the shiny facad

LEDUFF:

(getting angrier)

We live in a place where bad things happen to good people and the worst people are at the top of the pyramid and lapping it all up.

(Beat, he’s amused by something)

Should I ever get the pleasure of being near Kwame Kilpatrick with a knife in hand, dismemberment would definitely cross my mind.

BOGGS:

(laughs mischievously)

A decision I’d well support.  (she laughs. Beat.) there’s a reason we can’t trust those in charge any more. We must become those leaders we’re waiting for. Nothing good can come of depending on others for what we must do ourselves.

LEDUFF:

That sounds like it came straight of a fortune cookie.

BOGGS:

Fortune cookies sound like they came from me.

(LEDUFF laughts out loud gets quiet all the sudden, like he’s actually feeling something.)

LEDUFF:

(Like he’s in a trance)

It’s just, I’ve seen this city get to people. It takes them, chews them, swallows them, and then shits them out. Arson is cheaper than a movie. Selling crack is a veritable alternative to a factory job. I’ve got ghosts in the city, grace. They’re everywhere. Their presence like they’re fossilized. Everything is backwards here, survival isn’t innate.

BOGGS:

It’s not innate. You have to fight every minute to survive?

LEDUFF

 But is it so damn wrong to live in a place where you don’t have to fight all odds to stay alive? I saw it happen to my sister. And my niece. And my brothers. They’re all either dead or broken or drowning and if people don’t think this isn’t going to happen to them, they’re fools. Fucking fools.

(He looks around and slams his fork down on the table.)

What happened to this place? Grace, we’re living in a shithole and all anybody does is laugh at it. We can’t be the only ones who see the problem.  We’re stuck with the ghosts of Detroit past, present, and pretty soon they’ll be no future.

BOGGS:

You and scrooge have a lot in common.

LEDUFF:

Bah humbug.

(they both laugh and look down at their drinks.)

BOGGS:

(after a beat)

Fighting isn’t so bad. The people of Detroit have always been fighting. We know some battles are worse than others. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth it. Don’t give up on the city, Charlie. Don’t give up on our ability to harness our strength. We deserve greatness, and that’s what we’re going to get.

LEDUFF:

Yeah, I just want to kick them in the ass and get them to see that.

BOGGS:

You’re like Black coffee for the city of Detroit.

LEDUFF:

(confused.)

This is why I don’t hang out with philosophers often.

BOGGS:

Strong. Bitter. There for a jolt of reality.

LEDUFF:

(taking it in)

I’ll field you on that and say you’re like that green tea. Zen. Cleansing. Also, wasn’t it Mao Zedong’s favorite beverage.

BOGGS:

Things are changing, Charlie. We’re building bridges here. We’re all fighting in a good way-making our lives sustainable, resilient, flexible. Growing our souls and bodies. Can’t you see it? People don’t need to torch the city again because we’re taking matters into our own hands. Independence, Charlie. Self-determination. They aren’t dead here.

LEDUFF:

Hope.  That’s the one thing we can agree on.

(Mulling it over)

It’s a shithole. But I wouldn’t be anywhere else.

BOGGS:

I want to make Detroiters believe in something greater than their collective selves. I know you already believe that.

LEDUFF:

I guess I do.

 

(A waiter comes over)

WAITER:

More black coffee, sir?

LEDUFF:

Get me a green tea.

(LIGHTS OUT.)

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