backwoods people


Mwalim (Morgan James Peters I, born 1968-06-06, Bronx, New York) is a subcultural icon and highly influential performing artist, writer, filmmaker, and educator. An often quoted and well respected professor of English and African/ African American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Author, playwright, pianist, composer, conductor, director, producer, editor, and essayist are a few of the titles born by this artist. Born to a West Indian American (Barbados) mother and Mashpee Wampanoag father, Mwalim grew up in both the Northeast Bronx and Mashpee, MA. Raised with opportunities and experiences in the performing arts, he studied music, initially with the viola, and moved on to piano. As a student at Music & Art High School, he studied jazz composition with Justin Diccoccio as well as his grandfather, noted pianist, band leader and arranger of the 1920-60s, Allan Nurse. At the same time he discovered a talent for short story writing, where he began winning school, regional, and city-wide competitions for his stories. He went on to major in music composition and history at Boston University, where he became a part of the city's bustling live music scene, doing tenure as an intern and session musician at various recording studios around the city. He also became a part of the college's Black Drama Collective as a stage band musician and sketch writer. Here he came to the attention of James Spruill, noted Black Arts Movement theater artist and Boston University professor of theater arts; as well as the co-founder of New African Company. Mwalim joined New African Company in 1991, where he received his formal training in theater arts and management from Spruill and his wife, playwright, Lynda Patton.

As a filmmaker, a lot of his projects consisted of producing experimental shorts for museum and gallery installations, combining music and spoken-word with visual images, as well as his freelance work as an editor for various production companies throughout the country.

His award-winning one-man show A Party at the Crossroads is subtitled the tales and adventures of a Black Indian growing up in a Jewish neighborhood, has been presented at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut and as a part of the Indian Summer series at the American Indian Community House in New York City. His performance piece, based on memories of Mashpee of the past, "Backwoods People" was presented at the 1999 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, NC. His romantic comedy, Working Things Out was a hit at the 2005 festival. Mwalim is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Oversoul Theatre Collective, a professional Black and Native American arts and education organization formed in 1994.

Considered a leading voice in the new generation of artists (Black Masks Magazine, January/ February 2006 Issue, Vol. 17, No. 4; pg. 3), taking their cues from the artists of the Black Arts Movement. Defining this generation as the "Urban Expressionists" in his essay of the same title, appears in the on-line E-zine, NAT CREOLE() and CHICKENBONES ). The larger body of his work demonstrates his roots in absurdism, making him a part of the Afroxcentrics Movement which includes such contemporary dramatists as John Adekoje, Ed Bullins, Frank Shefton, and Merci Belle. After several years of having his plays produced around the country, Mwalim earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in July of 2006. His focus was playwriting, where he studied under the award-winning and legendary playwright, Leslie Lee. His thesis project is entitled Wetu In The City the story of a tribe of Black Indians whose territory was once the entire Bronx, now reduced to a triple-square block in the South Bronx which a real estate develop is now trying to take out from under them.

Mwalim is still actively engaged in music, theater, and film. His plays are regularly produced and presented throughout the country. He was recently named Filmmaker-In-Residence by WGBH, Bostons PBS television station. He will be the residency programs first narrative filmmaker, where he will be producing a film adaptation of Look At My Shorts, a collection of Mwalim's short plays exploring contemporary Black Indian experiences in Massachusetts. His album Bronx Jazz is due for release in early 2007. He is a professor of English and African/ African American Studies at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he teaches courses in drama, digital filmmaking, and Black Aesthetics & Folklore, with a strong emphasis of the roots of Hip-hop culture, the Black Arts Movement, and the Harlem Renaissance.

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