When 10-year-old Sterling starts at a new private school he is met with a mixed welcome from his classmates and teachers. Joining the chess club, he comes face to face with a dress code that has restrictions on black hair. This story is a conversation starter about microaggressions and teaches about discrimination. Sterling does find champions who help him celebrate his hair and stand up for what is fair and just.
About the playwright…
Junie Edwards is a 16-year-old black actor and up-and-coming playwright. They have performed with the Minnesota Children’s Theatre Company (Something Happened in Our Town, Locomotion), and History Theatre (Buddy! A Buddy Holly Story) and will graduate in 2024 from SPCPA (Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists.) Junie has written several plays and scrapped many, but always enjoys the thrill of writing and spreading a message.
Excerpt from the play…
STERLING: A curious 10-year-old who is an active problem solver and expresses how he feels.
TONYA(30’s): A beautiful and brave soul would do anything for her kids.
DJ(30s): The stereotypical “man of the house” in a non-toxic, loving way.
MICHEAL(16): Somewhat overprotective brother who will do anything to make sure Sterling succeeds.
KEM(16): The intellectual better half to Micheal.
BRUCE(10): (White) A bully who gets his ignorant comments from his mother.
JAX(10): (Af-American) The best friend of Sterling. Supports him in time of need.
NADIA(10): (Any minority other than Af-American) Not afraid to put people in their place.
SEAN(10): (White) The number one instigator.
KELSY(10): (White) An annoying, know-it-all, and bystander.
4 STUDENTS FROM JOHNSON PREP – Participating in the chess tournament, non-speaking.
*These students could play the TV voices.
MR. LAUGHLIGHT: (White) Kind and dedicated teacher, but he’ll be stern if he has to be.
PRINCIPAL SHEPARD: (White) A man who hides behind the rules to appear high in power.
FROYO JOE: (Af-American) A guiding figure for Sterling, and also a man who will stand up for himself and what is right.
MRS. MARCY: (White) A prissy woman who hides behind kindness. She is the main agitator of the Jackson family.
SETTING: A comfortable LIVING ROOM with a sofa and coffee table. The room is filled with framed artwork (probably done by the kids over the years) and a television.
It’s the night before STERLING’s first day at a new school. The whole family is in the living room. TONYA is seen picking STERLING’s hair on the couch while watching TV. DJ is knocked out right beside them and the twins are catching up on some homework on the floor.
My baby locs are so beautiful.
Mama? What are locs?
It’s your hair you dumbnut.
(TONYA knocks MICHEAL upside the head.)
Enough Micheal. Either finish that homework or take your boney behind to sleep.
(KEM starts laughing.)
You too Kem.
(KEM rolls her eyes. TONYA starts to chuckle.)
Why do we call hair locs?
Probably has something to do with the way it beautifully links together. See how it intertwines? The way it locks up? Some may call it a blessing; others will call it hard to manage. Your brother’s hair was so hard to manage that whenever I pick’d it, it sounded like you was biting an apple.
(TONYA imitates the sound and gestures of biting an apple. Everyone awake starts to giggle.)
Ha, ha, ha. Very funny Ma.
Boy, I’m just teasing.
(TONYA chuckles. DJ snores get louder.)
Your father snores like a hog.
(Pause, DJ stops snoring and opens one eye.)
I heard that.
(Everyone starts laughing.)
Did I lie?
No you didn’t Mama.
Y’all are filled with the giggles today huh? Twins, is that homework finished?
(KEM shoots up from the floor.)
I’m all done Pops. I don’t know about Micheal though.
Alright, good. Now take your all done behind to sleep.
But Dad it’s only 8 o’clock!
That mean I gotta go to bed too?
Nailed it. But if I hear from them teachers that your homework ain’t turned in, it’s gonna be me, you, and your principal.
(MICHEAL and KEM grunt.)
(KEM walks off and MICHEAL follows.)
Dad? Shouldn’t you go to bed too? You seem really tired.
Not a bad idea kiddo. That means I’m gon have to watch my show during reruns though.
(TONYA slaps his arm.)
You was knocked out for half the show anyway.
Yeah, work got me beat. I fell asleep in the car this morning in the driveway. But gotta make money one way or another.
That doesn’t sound very healthy, Dad.
You right son. I’ll try and be more considerate of myself.
Good. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.
(DJ hugs STERLING and TONYA.)
Love you both.
Love you too.
(STERLING smiles. DJ walks off tired.)
Mama, are you almost done with my hair?
Yes baby, I’m almost done. You excited for school tomorrow?
I don’t know? It’s a new school, what if people don’t like me?
You are a shining star, Sterling. If someone doesn’t like you, trust me they’re jealous.
Mama, that’s not nice.
I’m just teasing. But I’m serious, you gon shine, cause you’re my baby. You have the brain of a million geniuses and a smile that shines bright like the pearly gates of heaven.
(TONYA dusts off her hands as if she had been working on fixing the engine of an old Mustang.)
(TONYA grabs STERLING and kisses him on the forehead.)
Love you, baby boy.
Love you, Mama.
I washed and put your uniform in the closet upstairs.
Ok, Mom! Goodnight!