SPRINGDALE – A dynamic platform to inspire others began with a vision to create an original play called “Black Boy Blues” and steps that two local brothers took to launch a production company called Jenk Ink.
Jimmy and Joshua Jenkins made a powerful statement about honoring an individual’s purpose and following dreams from Aug. 26-28 in Charles H. Flowers High School’s auditorium. These creative sons of pastor John K. Jenkins, Sr. and Trina Jenkins of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden (FBCG) attracted enthusiastic supporters who filled the auditorium to see a production, that fused United States history with entertainment, faith, identity, purpose and achievement.
The play was inspired by a wealthy, self-sustaining black neighborhood in Tulsa, Okla. called Greenwood or “Black Wall Street.” However, Black Wall Street was burned to the ground in 1921 when angry white rioters destroyed the once-thriving place.
In “Black Boy Blues,” the Jenkins brothers added the presence of an eclectic cast, including Carter Jones. The fictitious orphan relocates to Maryland in 1958 and becomes a repairman. Jones is later challenged to make important choices after discovering the identity of his father, the reason he became a parentless child, and a shocking connection to the unfamiliar town. By the end of the play, Jones sheds his blues in exchange for a new perspective.
The Jenkins brothers, both raised in Prince George’s County, also infused strong spiritual messages that resonated with attendees of the play. After each performance of “Black Boy Blues,” social media buzzed with rave reviews.
Jimmy and Joshua officially combined forces for the first time through Jenk Ink.
“We were going to try to work together for a while, but we both had a lot of stuff going on, so we finally buckled down,” said Joshua, executive producer of the play. “Jimmy came to me with the idea of doing the play and wanted to team up as brothers and work together on it. So it was really his vision, his idea to come together and work, and I was like, ‘absolutely.’ We’ve been trying to do it for a long time, so that is how we kind of came together as brothers.”
Joshua, who serves as the drama ministry director of FBCG, previously worked as a police officer for seven years. The playwright said he has been interested in plays since he was a child. His younger brother, Jimmy, was the writer and director of “Black Boy Blues.”
“I worked at BET (Black Entertainment Television) and I worked at Tyler Perry Studios, and I just do a lot of studying every day. I study every single day. I watch film every day. I read books every day,” Jimmy said.
Adrian Arthur, originally from Bowie, portrayed Jones. He and other cast members showed their commitment to the project through a display of top-flight performances that evoked a range of emotions from the audience. Although acting has taken Arthur to Los Angeles and New York City, he recalls starting his acting career five years ago as a part of the cast of one of Jimmy’s plays.
“When I came back, Jimmy contacted me and said he was doing a play and really wanted me to star in it. Since Jimmy began my career, I always thought that… if Jimmy ever needs me, I am with him. I really believe in him as a director, so that is how I got started,” Arthur said. “I want this show to go worldwide because it has an amazing message for pretty much everybody, not only black boys, but just anybody in search of their purpose. So everybody needs to find their purpose and I really believe that this play really illustrates that.”
Ginger Prather’s 5-year-old grandson, Tahj Edwards, had a role in the play as Duley. Her son, Azel Prather, was the host. While standing outside of the venue, Prather smiled and said the play was well done.
Prather also said Tahj’s ability to have his first onstage opportunity speaks volumes to Jimmy’s character. She said she was happy he provides people in the community opportunities to showcase their talents and expose children to something new.
“I think (the play) had a great, positive message, and just seeing the progression and the growth from Jimmy’s previous productions is awesome,” Prather said. “I think the overall message is that you should follow your dreams, live your life and most of all have faith.”
The Jenkins brothers want to take the play to a few cities and are also working on other projects. Visit www.blackboyblues.com to find out more information about their current endeavors.