Ritual and revelation: Black Ensemble Players reimagine Shakespeare


“It was kind of a whimsical artistic impulse,” recalled Antonio Duke, as he reminisced on this past spring when Ashawnti Sakina Ford drove him home each night after their rehearsals for a production of “Imaginary Invalid,” a play by 17th-century French actor and playwright, Molière. Duke mentioned that he would love to play Puck, a mischievous spirit in English playwright William Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” written in 1595/96. Sakina Ford, excitedly responded, “Antonio, I just really want to see an all Black Shakespeare show. I don’t care what it is; I just want an all-Black production of it.”

“That’s funny,” Duke responded, “Because ‘Midsummer’ is a Black-ass play.”

The pair started reaching out to their communities, pitching their idea and were met with overwhelming support. “We didn’t have the funds to produce it yet, but people were so willing to [jump in],” said Sakina Ford. Continue Reading

black male students

Shaping an identity-affirming space for Black males at Henry High School

As many Black males start their education, their views on school are optimistic. Then something happens. As they matriculate, their optimism is replaced with feeling unwelcomed and unwanted. Research shows that African American boys in kindergarten through third grade perform comparably to their peers. But after fourth grade, things take a turn. They become less engaged. Once this begins, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep them engaged. This is reflected in poor graduation rates, attendance, behavioral concerns and even worse academic performance.

There are no inherent flaws in our boys. So why is this happening? Why does the school system keep producing these outcomes? Continue Reading

Man in wheelchair, Lake Street Minneapolis. Photo by emerging artist Netsanet Negussie, 2015.

Netsanet Negussie: Telling stories in one of the nation’s fastest gentrifying cities

Netsanet Negussie is an emerging young artist exploring social justice and racial equity themes through the lens of her camera. On the streets of Minneapolis, Negussie has found compelling subjects that depict impactful, human narratives not seen in the day-to-day media coverage of the city. She shared her art, her inspirations and her process with the Daily Planet. Continue Reading

Partnership, white supremacy and dance: Macalester student artists reflect on Black and Asian American intersections

In October, Macalester College hosted a Million Artist Movement “Power Gathering” themed around Asian American resistance and solidarity. That event was a part of the larger and ongoing convenings across racial and ethnic groups called by MAM. Following the event and inspired by the conversation, The Twin Cities Daily Planet published a story in December discussing the different intersections between Black and Asian American history and art. However, the original story left out a key voice in the conversation: the young artists who are shaping the future of how these intersections manifest. As a continuation of the previous article, Andrea Plaid reached out to Macalester dance students Sophia Hill and Niara Williams about their experiences as Asian American and Black American (respectively) students and artists, and how those experiences intersect. Continue Reading

The faces of the Fourth Precinct protest

The Fourth Precinct protest is often presented as a standoff between law enforcement and a small segment of millennial blacks in North Minneapolis. There’s something of an unspoken agreement in the mainstream media that it’s the protesters on trial, not the police. With descriptors like ‘chaotic scene,’ and ‘shouting and taunting bystanders,’ protesters are presented as a frightening horde to readers. This misses the humanity and individuality of the people involved. Even more, it misses the cause, a structural inequality that’s on the mind of many across the country. Continue Reading

What makes protest effective? Conversation with Ricardo Levins Morales [AUDIO]

As the Black Lives Matter movement continues to unfold in Minneapolis, I sat down with activist, artist and writer Ricardo Levins Morales to discuss the ways that make protests effective. Morales immigrated to the United States in the late 1960s, and since has been active in social and labor movements such as working with the Black Panthers and Young Lords in Chicago.

“What your opponents want more than anything is for you to disappear, just go away,” Morales said in an interview.

“The important thing is to have tactics. To do something so that people remain engaged in a way that will continue to engage and educate them.”

Listen to the interview along with photos from the Fourth Precinct (by photographers Uche Iroegbu and Patience Zalanga), historical photos and Morales’ illustrations. Continue Reading

Asian American protesters support Black Lives Matter in a Nov. 24 march in Minneapolis.

When Asian American politics and Black Lives Matter met at Macalester

When asked what is the mission of the Million Artist Movement (MAM), which calls itself the “artistic arm of Black Lives Matter,” Sandy Augustin said “We want to artfully dismantle white supremacy.” Agustin co-organized and facilitated the Power Gathering: Asian American Resistance and Solidarity at Macalester College back in October in collaboration with the Givens Foundation. That event was a part of the larger and ongoing convenings across racial and ethnic groups called by MAM. Continue Reading