The more things change, the more they stay the same is illustrated by a young man’s social media posts on FaceBook. Monty Kane is an actor who is using his talent of recreation to educate his audience that though our country has made major strides for equality, we still have much work to do. If you follow his #VintageAugust posts, you will see how history continues to repeat itself through systemic racism. You can feel his passion as he recreates for #VintageAugust. He’s not just trying to make a name for himself, he’s celebrating the men who came before him so he is able to do what he is doing now. #VintageAugust is recreative art through pictures of men who lived through slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement. He said he likes to weave history in the present to show the similarities. He’s had mostly positive feedback, but wise beyond his years, feels that for those who don’t understand, it’s because they had a whole lifetime of growing up learning something different. He is not trying to change people’s minds, he just wants to celebrate the history that paved the way for him. For anyone who cares about humanity, #VintageAugust is not easy to see and read, but he is hoping the discomfort we feel will push us to see life in our century from the lens of a Person Of Color. What you do with this information is up to you, but he’s bravely and vulnerably allowing his art to be a catalyst of transformation.
As a teacher, it thrills me to read someone’s writing and research as he explains why he chose the recreation and tells about the time in history. That’s why I asked and he agreed to have a Skype interview! Though I am almost two decades older than Monty, I am learning so much through this process. His #VintageAugust clearly makes the case that we need more than a month of Black History and Black History is not just for Black People. The history he showcases is a history meaningful to us all.
When talking about systemic racism, the argument “that was a long time ago” is often used to excuse ourselves as white people from responsibility of creating necessary change. But Monty’s own life reflects that our public systems, especially our schools, are still very oppressive for People Of Color (POC) as he recalls his public school education that took place in the 2000s. Growing up in urban Milwaukee, Wisconsin, he had a positive and strong upbringing by his mother and Grammen. Grammen is the name he gave his grandmother when he was a youngster and could not say “Grand One” clearly. He said they really didn’t have much but he felt like he had everything because of the love poured out on himself and siblings.
But his schooling? Not so bright. When we discussed the challenges Monty faced as a young person, he said it was a lack of resources. In high school, he transferred to a charter school and there were 8-10 students per class as opposed to the 30-40 students per class at his public school. That’s when he realized there were other schools with smaller classes, library databases, and caring adults who could help students figure out college, which became a possibility as learning came to life after he transferred to his new school. He really got into his education, even though math was difficult for him and he realized he was considerably behind from not gaining skills his entire k-8 grades. He had a lot of catching up to do! BUT he did. And the math teacher that helped him, Tom Mlynarek, is his friend to this day. He described that in public school he was falling through the cracks, and whether he was doing his work or not, he wasn’t learning much and no one seemed to care. But at his new high school, it was opposite. Again, as an educator, this means so much to hear from a young person’s perspective. This highlights the lack of equitable experiences for many living in urban areas and the desperate need for a systematic overhaul so all children have the tools necessary to succeed in life. Although Monty was able to leave a failing system, thousands of other students were not. He said he was not aware of the lack of resources until he attended a school that was able to support his learning needs in the ways it counts for young people!
It was probably through a hashtag during Black History Month over a year ago that I first came across Monty’s work on Facebook. Have you ever met someone and just knew they were destined for great things? Well, that’s how I would describe my friend, Monty Kane. At the time he was a college student, but as of May 2019, he is a graduate of Cardinal Stritch University. I celebrated this milestone along with him through social media.
Before this August, I’ve watched him recreate scenes from the show Martin and laughed because he nails him every time. I’ve watched him sing, laugh, and act realizing I’m watching a young star come up! The more he put out there for us, the more I wanted to know the story of Monty’s life. And while listening to him describe it, I see how he has defeated every stereotype thrown at him. Though he grew up with a single mom, she was not weak, nor was his grandmother. He had everything he needed. He did not choose a gangster lifestyle, and has kept away from drugs, including alcohol. He thrived in school and learning about African American culture was among his favorite studies. He’s faced setbacks and learned from them. He appreciates the Men and Women Of Color who came before him.
Monty says he has always loved acting. His first gig was as an infant, starring as Baby Jesus! By age five, he knew acting was for him. He acted in community theater and used it to help give back to his hometown. They would collect hygiene items or canned goods for the homeless in lieu of selling tickets. After high school, he studied at a culinary school because he thought that was a safer path and he was good at cooking. He didn’t share with everyone that he really wanted to go into acting, but the same week he left culinary school, someone shared with him about Cardinal Stritch University and how their theater arts program was amazing. He wants to share that it’s good to have a plan B, but don’t have a plan B until you wear out Plan A. Plan A was acting and he realized that there wasn’t going to be joy in his life unless he pursued his passions. So as a young man, his love of acting plus giving back to his community has been his drive.
The more he spoke in our interview, the more I could see the legacy of his Grammen and Mother living right on through everything he has done in and with his life. As a public school educator, I know hundreds of young people. I can tell you that he stands out as a young man fiercely determined to see his dreams come to light. His talent is beyond the superficial. He is already a role model for people of all ages. Our country needs the kind of strength emanating from his art. It will bring forth much needed change if we allow ourselves to grow through the discomfort. Our young people still need for us to fight for equitable resources and opportunities in education. History curriculum needs to embrace our minority heroes who helped build this country up to the amazing nation it is today so our students see themselves as part of a living history and continue the work. Resources, smaller classes, and counselors helping students visualize a productive future with their talents is priceless and necessary. Monty Kane, through his life and art of recreation, is proof we all need to be putting in the work to fight and change the oppressive systems that still exist.
Follow Monty on his Facebook Page The Monty Kane Project which features original skits and recreated scenes: https://www.facebook.com/TheMontyKaneProject/
Monty’s next play is Alabama Story and its based on segregation: https://www.facebook.com/events/2341943099398616/?ti=cl