Race Explored in Performance About Jena Six
Six black boys, one tree, three nooses and no civil liberties
comprise the elements of a forceful and thought-provoking presentation
on race that will be performed at Alma College.
Kashif Powell presents “An Autoethnographic Performance of the Jena Six” at 8 p.m. Friday, March 13 in Jones Auditorium. The one-man show investigates the tenuous relationship between the educational system and black males. Admission is free and open to the public.
“Audience members can expect a compelling and dynamic exploration of race in the United States,” says Joanne Gilbert, professor of communications and co-director of the Women’s Studies Program. “Powell is alternately confrontational and entertaining. He will provoke deep thought, some discomfort and lots of conversation.”
Powell, an instructor and master’s degree student at California State University in Long Beach, intertwines his own experiences with the Jena Six incident and the history of lynching to highlight “how Blackness has becomes a spectacle” as displayed on shows like MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” and VH1’s “Flavor of Love” and “I Love New York.”
In September 2006, at Jena, Louisiana’s, only high school, a black student asked permission from school administrators to sit under what was considered a whites-only tree. School officials advised the black students to sit wherever they wanted, and they did. The next day, three nooses, in the school’s colors, were hanging from the same tree.
The superintendent of schools gave the students responsible a three-day suspension, saying that the nooses were “a youthful stunt.” Fights erupted in the school over the next few weeks, but officials said that they were not necessarily related to the nooses. In December, another fight broke out during the lunch hour. Six youths, according to law enforcement officials, ganged up on a white student, who was taken to the hospital. He was treated and released and later in the evening made his way to a school event.
Six black youths were arrested in his beating, and five were originally charged as adults for attempted second-degree murder as the court made the argument their tennis shoes were deadly weapons. One of the six, Mychal Bell, 17, was convicted of aggravated second-degree battery, but the conviction was thrown out in September 2007 after being expelled from school and spending nine-months in prison.
The presentation at Alma College is sponsored by the College's Women’s Studies Program.
Posted: Thu, March 5th, 2009 at 9:40AM