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Flip the Script Friday: Black Lives, Black Words – Part II

Picking up this book again and reading through some of the plays is like…scripts flipping themselves, with a vengeance.

There’s been so much anger these past few weeks, and it’s been more than just race. Everywhere from on our screens to in the streets, women are under attack. It’s the Women’s March of 2017 all over again…

…but this time, they’re fighting back.

Two plays from Black Lives, Black Words that I read this afternoon exemplify the struggles of both race and gender, and go about them in very different ways.

First, in, Officer Friendly by Rachel DuBose, we see an alarming image of racial discrimination and gender bias smashed up against one another like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a trash compacter. In eight stop-motion-like scenes, we see the full range of feeling from Nina, a black woman, in an encounter with white male “Officer Friendly,” as he is known, at a bus stop. In the blink of an eye, the scene shifts from active suspicion of Nina, to the officer evading all of Nina’s logical and appropriate questions, to an attempt to cajole a false confession out of Nina, to a “mind if I stand here with you?” which turns into a “my you’re pretty,” which turns into a “let me protect you.” That was a long sentence, but as Nina gets on the bus, it’s a giant sigh of relief. In Call and Response by Becca C. Browne, the characters are all female and African-American, but the pain and oppression is still present. A seven-year-old girl approaches Claire, who is sitting in Chicago’s Millennium Park, feeding the birds. Their conversation begins with the girl asking Claire why she is not attending the march. As Claire reveals the facts, that her sister Della was murdered by a police officer, the girl mysteriously echoes her words – as if she has experienced this exact same moment before. As Claire is just about to ask the girl her name, along comes Brianna, a protester, who is leading a call-and-response chant about Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old girl who was murdered. When Claire learns this, she is immediately inspired to join the march, along with the girl, who reveals that she is Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and asks Claire to say her name.

My Thoughts: Although these two plays probably don’t go together in anyway, it feels like they should. DuBose’s play takes a tense situation that happens all too often and all too quickly and slows it down, beat by beat, whereas Browne’s play is a notably calmer atmosphere which is more surreal, but escalates to a frenzied chant. Rhythm and cadence is something that we take for granted, but in these two short pieces, I can see how time can be played with and manipulated for the purposes of showing what’s really there.

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