I've always wondered what Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. might have talked about if they'd ever had a chance to dialogue. Malcolm X was decidedly more radical than King, and until he went to Mecca and had a change of heart, the Nation of Islam speaker and activist promoted change "by any means necessary," advocating for the right of African-Americans to defend against oppression through violence. King, minister and believer in Gandhi-inspired nonviolent methods of resistance, obviously didn't feel the same way.
What might have happened if the two ended up in a small room together? In his 1987 one-act play The Meeting, Jeff Stetson attempts to answer the question. The scenes take place in a Harlem hotel room, where Malcolm X and his bodyguard, Rashael, rest up before a doomed appearance at the Audubon Ballroom. Martin Luther King Jr. sneaks up the back stairs for a secret meeting with Malcolm X, and spirited debate about the ways to improve life for blacks in a white-dominated, racist American society ensue (as do a couple rounds of arm wrestling). Described as fascinating but "contrived" by New York Times reviewer D. J. R. Bruckner, the play explores the differing viewpoints of the two men while meditating on their shared common goals.
The Meeting is part of a month-long series of events at Sonoma State University honoring Black History Month. Other events include a Civil Rights reenactment (Feb. 10); spoken word artist Ise Lyfe's one-man show Is Everybody Stupid? (Feb. 10); hip-hop author and speaker Michael Eric Dyson (Feb. 21); the Black Comedy Jam (Feb. 17); New Yorker writer Jamaica Kincaid (Feb. 17); and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at the Green Music Center (Feb. 26).
The Meeting is performed on Tuesday, Feb. 8, at SSU's Warren Auditorium. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 8pm. Free. 707.664.2382. For all events, see www.sonoma.edu-as-asp.