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

Artist Resmaa Menakem launches new book, gallery exhibit and album to inspire action on racial justice

Community elders gave Resmaa Menakem his name approximately 20 years ago and merely a decade after he began his path as a mental health therapist. His name reflects his calling as a healer with Resmaa meaning “to cause to rise in the alignment of truth” and Menakem meaning “using the foundation of his people” in the Kemetic language. Menakem believes that he “came to this planet as a healer,” and remembers that his mother noted his affinity for helping people in his youth. After 30 years of working as a therapist with people with severe handicaps, abused children and others, he has now released another book to aid with healing and show the truth in his name. Menakem’s book, titled “My Grandmother’s Hands: Radicalized Trauma and the Pathways to Mending our Hearts and Bodies,” dropped in September 2017 with the audio version due out Dec. Continue Reading

Facing white supremacy: Arts + Culture Editor Caroline Taiwo talks the culture of workplace discrimination on ‘Urban Agenda’

Whether you work at an office job or on the field of the NFL, white supremacy dominates work culture in the United States. In May, Twin Cities Daily Planet Arts + Culture Editor Caroline Taiwo brought us this in-depth analysis on confronting white supremacy in the workplace. In partnership with Pollen Midwest, we followed that article up with an event series and syllabus for further reading. On June 15, Taiwo appeared on KMOJ 89.9’s radio show Urban Agenda with Lissa Jones to talk more about her workplace experiences as a Black woman. With excerpts from James Baldwin and live Q&A phone calls from Minnesota listeners, this episode works to help folks – and people of color especially – recognize and activate around the white supremacy they interact with on a daily basis. Continue Reading

Black Lives Matter protestors at the Minnesota State Fair 2015

The Minnesota State Fair and criminal justice system are more related than you think

As fairgoers begin the day with excitement and energy around the Great Minnesota Get-Together, it is critical that we acknowledge how the State Fair has always been a place of oppression for people of color. The Minnesota Territory ran its first territorial fair in 1854. The 1857 census shows fewer than 100 black residents in Minneapolis and St. Paul combined. The fair became the state fair in 1859, one year after Minnesota’s statehood. It has taken place in 151 of the 156 subsequent years, only being canceled for reasons such as war and polio outbreaks. Continue Reading