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In Performance: #negrophobia (American Realness)


Underground Theater
466 Grand Street,
New York, NY, United States

FRI JAN 8, 5:30 PM
SAT JAN 9, 8:30 PM
SUN JAN 10, 5:30 PM
MON JAN 11, 8:30 PM

Running time: 75 minutes

Ticket Price: $20

Jaamil Olawale Kosoko’s #negrophobia is a performance, a provocation, an autobiography, an outcry, and a lesson to all (particularly the white folks in the house, myself included). But above all, with its intimate staging and arresting deluge of imagery, it is an unapologetic mirror image of what it means to exist in a black male body in the United States today. Kosoko, assisted throughout by model/performer IMMA/MESS, uses his own brother’s recent death as the impetus for an analysis of black male identity that faces a legacy of slavery, imprisonment, murder, and miseducation head on. In a space that feels more like an installation gallery than a theater, he exposes the ways this legacy is performed and perpetuated via common media images of black men, and turns the spotlight on the spectators by filming and projecting images of the audience around the space. As we watch ourselves watch these black bodies perform, we are forced to see our own participation in the construction of race and subjugation. While its analysis is brilliant and heartwrenching, ultimately #negrophobia is not a call to action so much as education: in the words of author Ta-Nehisi Coates, played back in the performance, perhaps the arc of history does not bend towards justice. “…it bends towards chaos. […] We should not try to make ourselves feel better about that. We should try to sit together in that pain.”

Image by Scott Shaw

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