Carl Ray Mesmerizes Audiences with Three Performances of Award-winning Autobiographical Play 'A Killing in Choctaw' During 'Delta Classic 4 Literacy' Week in Pine Bluff and Little Rock

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While head football coach at San Jose State University, Dr. Fitz Hill created the Literacy Classic -- a series of events and programs to raise awareness about literacy improvement needs in the community. Coach Hill -- now, President of Arkansas Baptist College and Executive Director of Read-2-Lead, a not-for-profit organization that promotes literacy and leadership -- established Delta Classic 4 Literacy. The program consists of a week of activities and events designed to raise awareness about literacy improvement needs in the Delta region of the South, and to raise money to fund literacy programs.

Delta Classic 4 Literacy commenced Sunday, October 8, 2006 at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff with a highly attended kick-off reception, and culminated Saturday Oct 14, 2006 with an excitingly close football game between Grambling State University and University of Arkansas Pine Bluff at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Home team University of Arkansas Pine Bluff won the game by a score of 33-28. During the week's activities, San Francisco Bay Area educator, actor and former stand-up comic Carl Ray captivated audiences with three powerful performances of his award-winning autobiographical play "A Killing in Choctaw." Ray also delivered a compelling keynote address during a morning chapel service at Arkansas Baptist College.

Originally created by Dr. Fitz Hill as the Literacy Classic while he was Head Football Coach at San Jose State University, the event has moved to Little Rock as the Delta Classic 4 Literacy. The 2006 event will be the first of an annual series of football games to be played between historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

But the Delta Classic was much more than just a football game. The game capped off a full week of Delta Classic events designed to raise awareness about literacy improvement needs in the Delta region and to raise money to fund literacy programs. "Low literacy levels are a major factor contributing to the chronic conditions of poverty in the Delta region of Arkansas and our neighboring states," said Hill. High school and college football players visited local elementary and middle schools reading to students as part of the Delta Classic 4 Literacy events.

The week-long festivities began with the Delta Classic 4 Literacy kick-off reception on the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff campus. The highlight of the reception was Carl Ray's performance of his award-winning one-man play, "A Killing In Choctaw," which he performed three times during the Classic Literacy week. Ray was also the keynote speaker at the Thursday morning chapel service at Arkansas Baptist College.

Ray spoke on two topics -- "The Power of Forgiveness" and "Why we Africans Americans must forgive America to find complete peace within ourselves." Ray uses his personal life story of growing up in Alabama as a backdrop for forgiveness. In 1962, while being questioned by a white man, Carl responded by saying "yes" and "no" instead of "yes, sir" and "no, sir," which was the customary response when addressing white people. Ray was severely beaten for being disrespectful. An hour later the man went to Ray's home and shot his father eight times as Carl looked on.

Ray said, "The greatest moment in my life occurred twenty-two years after the incident when I forgave the man that killed my Father. In January 2002 I sought professional help for the first time to deal with increase depression brought on by performing my one man play. During therapy I discovered that I had a tremendous amount of anger towards America. I forgave the man that killed my Father but subconsciously I also blamed America. The man lived in a Country where he knew he could kill a black man and not be punished. So really, America bears part of the responsibility for my father's death. So, my new challenge is forgiving America for all of the pain and suffering she has allowed to be inflicted upon me and my people."

Ray said, that in 2004 therapy helped him deal with his severe hatred of policemen which was due in part to being terrorized and harassed by policemen during the years he lived in Los Angeles.

Ray told the audience that forgiveness was not about the individuals that mistreated you but about your personal freedom. "You no longer have the stress and anger associated with those past incidents when you think about them." Medical studies have proven that racism is responsible for higher incidents of stress related health conditions such are strokes, heart attacks, and high blood pressure in African Americans.

Base on the dialogue with the audience after Ray spoke, he struck the silent mine field that has been smoldering in African American men. One gentleman responded, "He put into words what I've been feeling for years. As a black man, I know I have a lot of inward anger towards my country, but it's a subject I never knew how to address. It's like being raped, you are ashamed to talk about it." Another elderly man said, "Ray is giving black people the freedom to talk about a subject that we really need to talk about. But, how can you really discuss your true feeling about America in a public forum and not be seen as unpatriotic. He explained forgiveness in a way that makes sense. I don't know how many of us are ready to forgive on his level."

Ray said he has just started a Depression Anonymous Program for black men in an effort to get them to address their true feelings without being ashamed. Ray said, "Black men are dying before their time because they won't talk and forgive. My motto is "Forgive and Live."

The public television-filmed version of "WHY HISTORY MATTERS: The Choctaw Project" is available on DVD at http://www.carlraye.com.

The New York Times ran a full feature story on "A Killing in Choctaw: the Power of Forgiveness" and commented on its significance for race dialogue in America.

:: For interviews, press kits, invitations to lecture or perform his one-man play "A Killing in Choctaw," please contact Toni Beckham | 408-499-3664

:: To learn more of Carl Ray's fascinating story or his bi-annual HBCU tours, please visit http://www.carlraye.com/bctour.shtml

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