I lived during the tumultuous and magic time of the late sixties and early 70’s when tens of millions of people came together in an effort to raise the consciousness of the planet in a direction of love and mutual understanding. We were open to Eastern thought and readings in philosophy. Four books in particular influenced this project. Of course, Joseph Campbell’s “Hero of a Thousand Faces” in which he points out the role of the trickster in mythology: the deity who upends the status quo on Earth and forces mankind into a new era of human growth and understanding. That is Anansi’s role and the golden harp is his instrument of change. Also I was influenced by “The Yogas and Other Works” by Vivekenanda, Max Freedom Long's “The Secret Science Behind Miracles” - an introduction to Hawaiian Kahuna magic, and the life of the Tibetan monk Milarepa.
Milarepa used his great magic to wreak revenge on wicked relatives who had done his family wrong. Though he created great evil, he managed to achieve Buddhahood in the same lifetime. When I finished reading his story in 1975, I knew I wanted to aim my interpretation of it at young kids who make bad choices at an early age and then give up hope.
The story creates a superhero of color. Not a typical superhero in underwear, fighting street crime, Miles Blackwell is an intellectually curious, together, inner-city kid with a magic gift, which he rejects and which he brings forth only in a life-threatening situation when he becomes a victim of circumstance. As my eloquent editor, Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez says “We live in a world today where young people, especially those of color, are struggling to pursue their dreams and in many cases, to stay alive.” Another associate, the black filmmaker, Nigel Wright, points out that a lot of kids don’t dream. Many haven’t had the chance to be nourished by the magic books of childhood, because for the most part children’s books and comic books are populated by white heroes and heroines. Times are changing and more heroes of color are appearing on the scene. They are needed to help all of our kids to imagine and dream to their hearts’ content. That’s why Miranda-Rodriguez goes on to say “When Miles Blackwell embraces his destiny, his history and the magical and supernatural forces at play in this story, he truly becomes that hero whom we need now more than ever.” It’s that reaction I set out to elicit when I began interpreting the inspiring life of Milarepa 40 years ago. And why “Miles Blackwell and the Golden Harp of Anansi” is so timely now.