Oscar Brown: 'Bid 'Em In'

Frame from Neal Sopata's 'Bid 'Em In'

Frame from Neal Sopata's Bid 'Em In Neal Sopata hide caption

itoggle caption Neal Sopata
The auctioneer from 'Bid 'Em In'

The auctioneer from Bid 'Em In Neal Sopata hide caption

itoggle caption Neal Sopata

Oscar Brown Jr. is a true American griot — in the West African tradition, a storyteller who carries on the oral traditions of a family or village.

Brown is a poet, playwright, singer, actor and humorist who travels the United States, telling stories of African-American history. Over the decades, some of his songs have become classics. He's also known for combining his community activism with the arts, and once organized Chicago gang members into a theatre troupe.

Now 79, his song "Bid 'Em In" — a harrowing, percussive narrative where Brown plays the part of a slave auctioneer — has become an animated short film directed by Neal Sopata and produced by Ayappa Biddanda. Brown talks with NPR's Tavis Smiley about the film, which is eligible for an Academy Award in the Best Short (Animation) category.

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