Prolific Writer, Director and Game Inventor Renowned for Activism
Some people excel in certain arenas. Through productivity, unbridled determination and unquestionable output, they leave indelible marks on the sands of time.
By all standards, J. e is an accomplished dramatist. In her own words,
“I have a long track record. My works are now a part of the canon of American and world literature.” Her works may be obtained through Xlibris.com, Amazon.com, the Alexander Street Press, the Dramatists Play Service and Samuel French Publishers.
The central literary genre introduced by a unique game-based learning strategy which J. e calls “The Story Fan Project” is the Aesop fable. J. e researched these works and adapted them from the prose of the ancient sage Aesop, as inter-active Three-Minute plays in spirited, rhymed couplets.
Aesop, an enslaved African, was born mute and deformed over 500 years before Christ. The fables have been scored by Brooklyn-born composer and Grammy Award-winner, Bashiri Johnson, seen along with Michael Jackson as his last percussionist in the movie documentary This Is It.
The recently-released CD of the classic Aesop fables, entitled Musical Aesop: Jazzed, Popped, Hip Hopped and Beat-Boxed, contains 13-tracks of unforgettable beats, with a moving introduction by Academy Award nominee, Ms. Ruby Dee.
J. e has distinguished herself as a seasoned writer, accomplished dramatist, teacher and educator. This celebrated author of the acclaimed play Black Girl, which ran Off-Broadway for over 800 performances and was later directed for the screen by the late Ossie Davis, has also penned a body of Ten-Minute folk dramas, which have played to packed houses. In July, at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, under the leadership of the Reverend Calvin O. Butts, III, Ms. Franklin’s play, “Woman at the Well,” will be presented as part of the church’s Senior Bible Study ministry.
J. e received her undergraduate degree from The University of Texas, and she later attended Union Theological Seminary in New York, where she studied under the noted Liberation Theology professor, Dr. James Cone.
Her community activities include membership in various “action ministries,” chiefly, as a member of the Black Teachers Who Care Ministry at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, and at the Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, where she is involved with the Education Committee.
J. e has taught in both formal and informal educational settings. Her interest in education began in Mississippi, during Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Student Non-Student Coordinating Committee (SNCC’s) Mississippi Summer Project, where she wrote her first play, “A First Step to Freedom,” and where she worked with the community elder, Winson Hudson in founding a Freedom School in Harmony, near Carthage, Mississippi. The school was later named the Sharon Waite Community Center. She served as a full-time Lecturer in the Department of Education at Herbert H. Lehman College/CUNY; Resident Playwright at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York; Resident Playwright at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island; visiting professor in the Department of Theater Arts at the University of Iowa, and an adjunct professor in the Department of Languages and Literature at Touro College in New York City and the Bronx.
Born in Houston, Texas, she grew up in the Fifth Ward, the eleventh of thirteen children. A dedicated student, she graduated from Phillis Wheatley High School and proceeded to The University of Texas, where she helped to desegregate the undergraduate school.
Her mother, Mathie Randle Franklin, a domestic worker, was a graduate of Jarvis Christian College; her father, Robert Figures Franklin, who came of age on the same plantation on which his own father had been enslaved, could not read or write but developed his talents and became a proficient chef.
Malika Nzinga & Erik
J. e Franklin is the mother of Malika Nzinga, a poet and actress who has appeared in numerous films, plays and commercials, and is a graduate of Morgan State University, where she majored in music. J. e is also the proud grandmother of Erik Franklin-Cash, a teen artist who illustrated the book A Hip Hop Aesop: Jazzed, Bopped and Beat-Boxed, a collection of Three-Minute plays for classroom use.
Brother & Sister
J. e’s one surviving brother is Reverend Benjamin Franklin, a retired army chaplain, and her one surviving sister is Rosemary Franklin Wilson, the grandmother of the pioneering rap star, Mr. Scarface.
Her future plans include further investigation into the “non-sensory” educational model currently set in place in the school curriculum, and the role it plays in “the learning block.”
Utilizing her multi-sensory, literary board game, Spin-A-Play, J. e has created a solid delivery model which fuses all the art forms in an inter-disciplinary process that permits a seamless organic transition into State Core Curriculum Standards. The strategy has been field-tested in schools around the nation, and a move is on to market the model globally. J. e is truly a maverick!
Despite the obstacles, J. e foresees a bright future for educational theatre, especially for the Three-Minute play. According to the playwright, “Over twenty years ago, in 1990, my agent sent a set of my Ten-Minute plays to nearly every theater in America. All of the theaters rejected the genre, ruling that it was too risky. They had no vision that it could be a viable form. Today, I can barely keep up with all the theaters requesting a Ten-Minute play. A genre which was born before its time has come into its own.
The Three-Minute play, too, was born before its time. But it will be the genre of the future. Through the Three-Minute play, I intend to adapt all 659 stories credited to Aesop, as an anthology series for schools and family audiences. My mission is to restore these works to our cultural memory. Children are hungry for wisdom literature. What greater body of literary knowledge might we give them besides Aesop?”
Currently, J. e is charting a unique path in the field of educational theater through a game-based learning tool she created. The strategy introduces teachers to a delivery model, which can be used in the classroom to jump-start the learning process for children in Grades K-12. It fuses music, storytelling and performance traditions, while opening up organic entry points to seamlessly transition into the State Core Curriculum. Spin-A-Play, the board game she created for this process, was inspired by the New York-based IMANI Group: Network for Children and Families, under the leadership of Dr. Esther Pierre Hyatt. Spin-A-Play has been widely field-tested in schools throughout the nation and abroad. In 2007, Spin-A-Play was awarded a full U. S. patent.
J. e believes strongly that an artist should be a maverick. She is not afraid to step outside the box. “Follow the Spirit,” she advises young artists. “Never surrender your dreams, and don’t be afraid to struggle.” Privilege, she believes, is the enemy of achievement. “True worth is measured by what is achieved through struggle.” J. e’s works are evidence of her struggle, for in all of her productions, her characters struggle through some troubling dilemma.