By Rasheed Shabazz
Oakland actor, director, playwright and filmmaker Michael Lange died on May 20. He was 65.
Lange is best known for his fiery portrayal of Malcolm X. He performed speeches like “Message to the Grassroots” and “The Ballot of the Bullet” since 1990. He also performed in Jeff Stetson’s award-winning play “The Meeting,” portraying a fictitious meeting between Malcolm and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In 2014, Lange portrayed the role of Elijah Muhammad in Larry Americ Allen’s “The Expulsion of Malcolm X.”
As a director, Lange directed “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men”, “The Old Settler” and “Firing Blanks at Moving Targets” and, this past January, “Lord Why Can’t I Do Right.” As a playwright, he wrote a musical drama on the life of Nat Turner called “Prophet Nat,” focused on the historical revolt in 1831.
Born January 2, 1949 in Oakland, California to Ted and Geraldine (Jerri) L. Lange, he attended Santa Fe Elementary School, Golden Gate Junior High School and Oakland Technical High School.
He received his Bachelors in Political Science from UC Berkeley in 1973. He later attended California State University, Hayward for his Master’s in Public Administration.
Lange proudly served Oakland residents through the Office of Parks and Recreation for 37 years. He began in 1968 as a part-time day camp counselor at Redwood Day Camp, teaching art to children.
From 1971 to 1981, he was director of the Senior Citizens Program at Mosswood Park.
From 1974 to 1988, he was Children’s Camp Director at Feather River Arts Camp. He was Feather River Camp Manager from 1988 to 1991 and Camp Supervisor from 1991 through 2003.
Lange later managed the Alice Arts Center (now Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts) and the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center. He retired as a program analyst for the Cultural Arts Division at the city.
Since 1998, Lange was a lecturer at San Jose State University.
Lange is survived by his mother, pioneering radio and TV personality Geraldine Lange; his brothers Ted Lange and James Cowan; and his sister Jana Lange.
“Michael was loved by everyone whose lives he touched,”said Jerri Lange.
Lange’s likeness was included on a 2014 mural at Alice and 14th streets – across from the Malonga Center, in recognition of his contributions to Black arts in Oakland.