May 31, A History

Comedy of Errors

Thirty-four years ago today, Comedy of Errors opened at Lincoln Center Theater. The producers were kind enough to schedule this big event on my 30th birthday. After the show, I got into an all-plaid outfit purchased just for the occasion and made my way down to Sardi’s with my date Amy Aquino. We walked in, Amy saw that the place was SRO and, in a voice that soared easily above the chatter and my garish suit, said, “This man has been entertaining you all evening. It’s his birthday. We need a couple of chairs.” We sat, we ate, I got older.

My brother Jonathan Raz, a biostatistician by day and poet by night, celebrated this combined birthday and show opening with a sestina. His poem is sitting on my desk now, reminding me of two things that make life good -- art, from poetry to plays and even plaid suits, and all the people who are my family.

One hundred years ago today, in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, thousands of families lost their homes and hundreds lost their lives when white mobs attacked what was known as Black Wall Street. White supremacy flourished after the massacre. In 1923, the Tulsa Klu Klux Klan erected a meeting house called 'Beno Hall,' as in "be no Negro, be no Jew, be no Catholic, be no immigrant". I’m sharing the Fresh Air review of three documentaries on the Tulsa Massacre to remind us, on this May 31st, when hatred and lies are still rampant, that every Beno is family, too.

Tulsa burning
Tulsa Oklahoma's Greenwood neighborhood, the 'Black Wall Street', on fire in 1921.

Jon's Poem