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National Black Theatre Probes The Policing of Black Bodies




Emmet Till. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland. Kindra Chapman.  In 2015, the legacy of intolerance and discrimination against people of color continues its awful march, name after name and hashtag after hashtag. From the collective cry of the people, many movements have sprung forth to address the disparity in treatment of Black people by law enforcement officers. Each day we wait for the inevitable news that another young and unarmed person has been brutally killed by police forces who purport to protect and serve.  The questions and the outrage remain. Who exactly is being protected? Who is being served?

Black theatre has long lent its stage to the presentation of these issues. This year, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre in Harlem dedicates its 47th season to “The Policing of the Black Body.”  The mainstage productions include a New York premiere of Dead and Breathing, written by Chisa Hutchinson and directed by Jonathan McCrory. The show, through surprising humor and persistent questioning, investigates morality, mortality and the intense tug-of-war between the right to die with dignity and the idea of life as a gift. Previews for the show begin October 28 and it runs through November 23, 2015.

Chisa Hutchinson on Twitter

Look who’s opening what’s bound to be an explosive season @NatBlackTheatre …


Blood at the Root will also make its debut premiere in New York. The show was written by Dominique Morisseau and directed by Steve H Broadnax IIIin co-production with HiArts. Blood at the Root has begins previews on April 19  and will run through May 15, 2016. This show was inspired by the events surrounding the “Jena Six,” six black teenagers convicted in the beating of Justin Barker, a white student at Jena High School in Jena, Louisiana, on December 4, 2006. Playwright Dominique Morisseau uses this historical event as a platform to develop the fictitious story that explores the experiences of a group of high school students desperately trying to define themselves and navigate around those who identify themselves differently. When the desire for change erupts within them individually, they find themselves powerless and are thus forced to confront and engage “the other” in order to move their community forward. 

Blood at the Root (Official Trailer)

The Official Trailer for the Stage Play written by Dominique Morisseau [@DoMorisseau] Directed by Steve Broadnax. Written for Penn State University Grad Acting Class of 2014. ——————————————————— Commissioned by Penn State’s School of Theatre for its graduate acting company, Blood at the Root is a new play by Dominique Morisseau that is infused with music and movement.

This year’s workshop production runs February 24 – 28, 2016. The play is Zoohouse and was written by Aurin Squire and directed by Ebony Noelle Golden. The play is set in a dystopic future in an asylum for the criminally insane. Zoohouse is a twisted tale about who has narrative authority, where we keep history, and whose lives matter.  The psychological and social, sexual and political, public and private fuel the inmates on a dark and surreal ride toward an explosive conclusion.

Aurin Squire on Twitter

IfIDieInPoliceCustody I didn’t commit suicide. I was not resisting arrest, I have never owned or used a weapon. I am a non-violent activist

As we move forward into an uncertain future, we hope that this series of powerful and thought-provoking plays will help to amplify the simple truth that Black Lives Matter. The Black community will no longer passively accept the notion that anyone has the right to infringe upon our being, our existing freely in this country. To find out more information about the National Black Theatre and how to purchase tickets, click here. 

Nicole "Blackberri" Johnson is a freelance writer, stage/ film actress, activist and entrepreneur. Mom of three. Blackberri is also a notorious cape thief and unapologetic bacon lover. Follow on twitter @Blackberri

Award Nominations

Cynthia Erivo Nominated for BAFTA’s Rising Star Award

Drew Shade



Cynthia Erivo at Opening Night of the Color Purple. Photo by Drew Shade

Tony, Emmy, and Grammy Award-winning actress, Cynthia Erivo, known for her transformative performance as Celie in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple is now one of five actors nominated for the British Academy of Film’s 2019 Rising Star Awards.

Most recently seen alongside Viola Davis in Steve McQueen’s Widows, Erivo says:

“I’m ever grateful to BAFTA and the jury panel for nominating me for the 2019 EE Rising Star Award. It means the world to me to be acknowledged by the community that, for most of my life, I’ve known as home. Thank you for this incredible honour.” – Cynthia Erivo

The BAFTA Awards will take place on February 10th.

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Get Your War Clothes On: Billy Porter Energizes in GLAAD Acceptance Speech

Jerrica White



billy porter

So, I have a question.

In the same line of thought as “innocent until proven guilty,” do we grant the assumption of positive intent in our expectations of our brothers and sister in regards to woke-ness, à la woke until proven problematic?

Now don’t get me wrong, there was no doubt in my heart that Tony and Grammy Award-winner, Billy Porter, was woke. Nope, none. What I wasn’t ready for, was the way he fixed his fingers to pen one of the greatest acceptance speeches of my lifetime, and how he turned the Gospel classic “I Don’t Feel No Ways Tired” into a battle song.

The 28th Annual GLAAD Media Awards honored Billy Porter with the Vito Russo Award, presented to an openly LGBTQ media professional who has made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance.

He started by affirming the room full of members of marginalized communities, with my personal daily mantra: “You are enough. we are enough.”

Since the beginning of time artists are the folks who engage critically and encourage those who think they are powerless to question the status quo.

Brothers and sisters across the room leaned in.

The days of shut up and sing are over.

Alliteration informed and illustrated as Porter preached on remaining “vigilantly visual” as we tell our stories. Acknowledging the reality of our times, he spoke on Number 45:

Where they slipped up this time is in that declaration of war. It’s not only against Black and Brown people and Queer people anymore, it’s against ALL of us. And as a result, the good news is: white folk, and straight folk, and all those fierce women folk, are mad now. And NOW maybe something might get done!

Get. Your. War. Clothes. On.

From slavery to emancipation, to the 13th Amendment, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Movement. From Stonewall to AIDS, to marriage equality— we gotta remember the shoulders who we stand on—the ones who fought and died for those freedoms that we hold so dear. Let’s use these historical strides we’ve made as a nation to empower us as warriors on this battlefield of equality.


Until we can figure out how to love one another unconditionally, no one wins. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Have always come at a cost and evidently the always will.

If that’s not the truth.

Stay strong. Stay vigilante. Stay visible. Stay hopeful. Stay focused. Be brave. Be fierce.





For a full list of this year’s winners, honorees, and guests, visit GLAAD.

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Twitter: @BroadwayBlack

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