Mwalim (Morgan James Peters I, born June 6, 1968, Bronx, New York), a.k.a., Mwalim *7), and Mwalim DaPhunkee Professor, is a subcultural icon and highly influential performing artist, writer, filmmaker, and educator. He is an often quoted and well respected professor of English and Black Studies at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Author, playwright, pianist, composer, conductor, director, producer, editor, and essayist are a few of the titles borne by this artist.
Born to a West Indian American (Barbados) mother and Mashpee Wampanoag father, Mwalim grew up in both the Northeast Bronx and Mashpee, Massachusetts. Raised with opportunities and experiences in the performing arts, he studied music, initially with the viola, and moved on to piano. As a student at Music & Art High School, he studied jazz with Justin Diccoccio as well as piano and music composition with his grandfather, noted pianist, band leader and arranger of the 1920-60s, Allan Nurse. While hanging out in the famous 251 West 30th Street music complex in Manhattan, Mwalim got his first taste of being a session player by adding string parts for a producer recording at Planet Recording studio. At the same time he discovered a talent for short story writing, where he began winning school, regional, and city-wide competitions for his stories. He went on to major in music composition and history at Boston University, where he became a part of the city's bustling live music scene, doing tenure as an intern and session musician at various recording studios around the city. He also became a part of the college's Black Drama Collective as a stage band musician and sketch writer. Here he came to the attention of James Spruill, noted Black Arts Movement theater artist and Boston University professor of theater arts; as well as the co-founder of New African Company. Mwalim joined New African Company in 1991, where he received his formal training in theater arts and management from Spruill and his wife, playwright, Lynda Patton.
In his final year of graduate school, Mwalim took the advice of Mel Howard, the then director of Boston University's film program, and passed on a writing job in Hollywood, choosing to cultivate his work in theater, music and film locally. He continued his studies and formal training at New African Company in Boston and moved back to Cape Cod. After finding few opportunities and community and semi-professional theater on Cape Cod for people of color, Mwalim got together with a small group of local performers and co-founded Oversoul Theatre Collective, Inc., soon becoming the groups artistic director.
He also began to use his work in music, theater and storytelling as a platform to explore the Black and Native American experience; and the American phenomenon of having to choose one race, despite the rhetoric of the American melting pot. Declaring himself a "Black Wampanoag" drew criticism from native and Black communities alike; but also created a paradigm of hope for others sharing Mwalim's ethno-cultural mix and sense of identity. Through his work with Oversoul Theatre Collective in southeastern, Massachusetts and New African Company in Boston, as well as his own performance work in music and storytelling, Mwalim drew the attention of theater producers and club promoters in New York City. In 2000 he became a part of the Lincoln Center Theatre's Director's Lab program. From there he gained residencies at the famous Harlem Theatre Company The Point CDC/ Live From The Edge theater, and the Bronx Writer's Center, where he presented his original plays and performance pieces as well as taught workshops in creative writing, filmmaking and drama. His plays also began getting picked up for productions by various Off- Broadway and Off-Off Broadway theater groups as well as productions throughout the USA, Canada, the U.K. and the Caribbean.
His award-winning one-man show "A Party at the Crossroads" is subtitled the tales and adventures of a Black Indian growing up in a Jewish neighborhood, has been presented at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum in Connecticut and as a part of the Indian Summer series at the American Indian Community House in New York City. His performance piece, based on memories of Mashpee of the past, "Backwoods People" was presented at the 1999 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC. His romantic comedy, Working Things Out was a hit at the 2005 festival.
Also known as "DaPhunkee Professor", Mwalim became a professor of English at UMass Dartmouth in 2003 and the Director of Black Studies (formerly African & African American Studies) in 2011. As a filmmaker, a lot of his projects consisted of producing experimental shorts for museum and gallery installations, combining music and spoken-word with visual images, as well as his freelance work as an editor for various production companies throughout the country.
Mwalim is considered a leading voice in the new generation of artists, taking their cues from the artists of the Black Arts Movement. Defining this generation as the "Urban Expressionists" in his essay of the same title, appears in the on-line E-zine, NAT CREOLE() and CHICKENBONES ). The larger body of his work demonstrates his roots in absurdism, making him a part of the Afroxcentrics Movement which includes such contemporary dramatists as John Adekoje, Ed Bullins, Frank Shefton, and Merci Belle. After several years of having his plays produced around the country, Mwalim earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in July 2006. His focus was playwriting, where he studied under the award-winning and legendary playwright, Leslie Lee. His thesis project is entitled Wetu In The City the story of a tribe of Black Indians whose territory was once the entire Bronx, now reduced to a triple-square block in the South Bronx which a real estate develop is now trying to take out from under them.
Mwalim is still actively engaged in music, theater, and film. His plays are regularly produced and presented throughout the country. He was recently named Filmmaker-In-Residence by WGBH, Bostons PBS television station. He will be the residency programs first narrative filmmaker, where he will be producing a film adaptation of Look At My Shorts, a collection of Mwalim's short plays exploring contemporary Black Indian experiences in Massachusetts. His album Bronx Jazz is due for release in early 2007. He is a professor of English and African/ African American Studies at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where he teaches courses in drama, digital filmmaking, and Black Aesthetics & Folklore, with a strong emphasis of the roots of Hip-hop culture, the Black Arts Movement, and the Harlem Renaissance.
1. "Her Groove" 12' Single (1990 Midnight Groove Recordings)
2. "Voices Of My Ancestors" E.P. (1995, MFV Group)
3. "Thief In The Night" CD single (2000, Midnight Groove Recordings)
4. "Jazzy- Soul Club Grooves" E.P. (2001 Midnight Groove Recordings/ OTC Records)
5. "The Liberation Sessions" CD (2010 LMMGM/ Lore Music Group)
6. "DEEP Soul Chants & Hollers" CD (2012 LMMGM)
7. "Awakened By A Noon Day Sun" CD (2014 LMMGM/ Spirit Wind Records)
+ Mwalim appears on at east 50 other recordings as a musician, producer, and/or songwriter
- Salaam, Kalamu yaa. "The Influence of Malcolm X; Historical Background on the Black Arts Movement". wikipedia.org.
- http://www.bu.edu. Missing or empty
- Black Masks Magazine, January/ February 2006 Issue, Vol. 17, No. 4; pg. 3