Billie Holiday Theatre streams ‘12 Angry Men…and Women’
Linda Armstrong | 9/24/2020, midnight
The Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn always finds new ways to demonstrate what a treasure it is to the Black community in New York City. That standing was well showcased recently as it presented “12 Angry Men…And Women: The Weight of the Wait” live on Youtube. The performance was based on real-life stories of people subjected to racial profiling by police and occurred on the Black Lives Matter Mural in Bedford Stuyvesant, the first Black Lives Matter mural to be painted in the country. The production was based on the 2012 book, edited by Gregory S. Parks and Matthew W. Hughey for a play done at the Billie Holiday in 2015, titled, “12 Angry Men: True Stories of Being a Black Man in America Today.” The reimagining of this work, performed by a brilliant cast that included Wendell Pierce (who was also in the original production), Lisa Arrindell, Marsha Stephanie Blake and Billy Eugene Jones, included a very timely, powerful ending that made sure to bring the horror and tragedy of what happened to Breonna Taylor to life, as the audience heard an account from the words of Taylor’s boyfriend and her mother.
Everything about this presentation was excellently orchestrated. First, a short film explains that the Billie Holiday Theatre was the first place to have a Black Lives Matter mural painted. You get to hear from local political leaders, Artistic Director Dr. Indira Etwaroo, and the artists who created the mural. This is followed by a divine musical introduction by four members of the New York Philharmonic, Patrick Gee, Kathy Green, Qianqian Li and Na Sun. They played peaceful, classical numbers and gave the evening a feeling of charm, elegance and beauty. There was a small selected group of audience members, very well socially distanced, witnessing this tremendous piece of drama.
Each actor, along with a musician, Daniel Bernard Roumain, stood in a cubed-off partitioned stage and beautifully brought to life the powerful stories of both Black men and women who have been victimized by the police, with traffic stops for no reason, where they faced being thrown against their cars, frisked, having their vehicle searched and nothing found, with no apologies whatsoever. Some of these are stories of people who didn’t realize until their encounter with the police that you don’t have to be doing anything wrong to be pulled over, humiliated and physically abused. These are people who came up close and personal with racism.
You need to hear these stories firsthand to realize that this is commonplace in our society and has been for decades. You can still experience this production, as the presentation is offered on YouTube for 30 days at www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_heHhX093U.
Please take 90 minutes and experience this very traumatic but necessary taste of the reality that our people are enduring at the hands of the police. The final Breonna Taylor story will bring tears to your eyes; I know it did to mine.