Scene 4: Markings



Fe: What is race/ethnicity? Colour, hue even. Texture? Of hair? Of skin and tone? Backsides and breasts? Sequins of beauty. Interwoven and infinite. The resilience of life lies here. The sustainability of life lies here. Muscles twitch in times their own. Rhythms are born and learned. Movement is recognized. Movement is understood. Expected. And history travels through time and space

Where IS race/ethnicity? Deeper still, where is it from?! A constructed means of “order”  An effectively sinister method of marginilization and disenfranchisement. C’mon, man. We KNOW where it is….

Abra: In skin tone rainbows too difficult To categorize and classify by Genus and species Building hierarchies with each label Infrastructuring their strength with bodies, psychologies, ideologies, epistemologies Superiority arising from the backs of others Colors. Empowered in one box, devalued in another. contextual, shifting absorbing, spitting out. Reborn to reproduce. Parasitic preying on human bodies. Lurking in epidermal layers to manifest to make the arbitrary real. what are you and when are you whatever you are and who knows for sure? Scientific strands do not speak its name. We have been programmed to program To check ourselves into boxes yet our humanity resists becuz it doesn’t fit

Fe: where is race/ethnicity…in the unmanageable, the untrackable, the everyday transaction, look and attitude, a gesture, a tone, it is worn more than written down on charts and graphs measuring phenotype, appearance in easy pie slices and percentages.  It is done in mysterious”did that just happen” ways rather than nailed down and fossilized

Abra: …that is where its chameleon power lies. it is perception changing. it is…everywhere, performed & lived in order to exist at all…we are more than bodies in boxes, diagrammed DNA rank-and-file racial relics

Fe: we are living histories, mobile genealogies, oral tales that call and respond, breathing life into continental rhythms, long denied us, but they inhabit us still

Abra: moving us to move, catching spirits in motion, a fire blazing through, rattling the bare bones of an infrastructure crumbling, scaffolding exposing the sham of superior skin, ethnic embers, race ashes, as diasporic dust settles,

Fe: cultural ether ascending from the smoke.

Lights fade out.

Preset long box near upstage left wall.  Su and Chara enter in black.  Lights go.  Sound go.


I. specimen

Light up on Chara & Sunil standing on blocks. Sound cue #11: When Kevin walks toward two bodies on the box.  Sound cue #11: Track 7 GO.

Workshop conversation collage track begins (so what are you).  Kevin & Lulu enter walking around, looking at bodies on block, perusing, examining, touching.  They step up behind and begin to explore each other’s bodies in duet form.  Following this exchange. they then shift to begin to measure, poke, prod, explore Chara’s body, circling her with investigating gestures trying to determine what the body “is.”

Lulu disengages moving to upstage right corner to begin race story movement depiction.  Kevin & Su join her at the end of the sequence and they repeat it (Lulu, Kevin and Sunil against Chara on floor as “body specimen”).  They move forward & Chara joins them on second phrase (her phrase).  They go through the rest of the sequences as ensemble – Kevin then Su’s. Music ends with all standing in a line and tossing hand.  Sound cue #12: END OF TRACK 7. STOP.

II. Race Stories

One by one, each dancer comes to the box to tell a story (Order: Lulu, Chara, Kevin, Su).  Ensemble behind them repeats the story translated through movement, adjusting to the speed of the telling. As the second round of stories begins, group gathers to sit back to back around the boxes.  End with Su’s “I love my father…”

III. ethnic noise

Ensemble begins to move away from the box.  Ensemble chants catch phrases from each story as they take turns defining each body.  Each performer featured in a “lift” – an objectification…making them into a thing, a specimen…

Trini whispers:

“He loves his father” / “Broad nose, thick lips”

“Tick white, tick black / “scratch it off”

“Kuti” / “In she hair”

[Ready sound cue #13.] “Cower” / “Cringe” / “Spit” / spit sound

After (4) “Cower – cringe – spit” Sound cue #13: Track 8 GO.

Transitions into dance segment set to Fela “Roforofo fight” (fight song) track introducing Idea of agitation – being unsettled with these race/other issues ­– Identity is never a peaceful entity – contested notions…

At end of dance segment – all are standing in corner, with fist hands…Lights fade.  Sound cue #14: END OF TRACK 8.  STOP.


Chicago Race Stories

Fe’s story

“you sound like a white girl!”, “what are you watching/wearing/listening to?! That’s some white shit!”,  “Mommy, are you white?” My earliest knowledge, exposure, recognition of race occured in my own home, my own black home. i guess, honestly, the concept of race came second to the concept of skin color and hair texture.  due to severe marital discord, i often heard my mother refer to my father as “black ass”.  she, herself, is what Trinis would call “cocoa-payal”; mulato, light.  in the neighborhood, i would bear nicknames like “skillet”, “spook”, and “roach” (“African booty scratcher” and “tar baby” were also frequent, but NOT deemed as terms of endearment).  at my house, we listened to classic rock, jazz, opera and folk.  our R&B quotient was quite low for a southside household.  my cousins would marvel at how easy my hair was to comb and style, cuz i had “that good hair”.  in my adolescence, i was going on cross-town adventues (old town art fair, improv classes, free shows at the cultural center) that put me in close contact with other races and cultures! .  my first high school boyfriend was Irish.  now, as on adult i work for “the man” who fathered “the man” and have friends and associates of various ethnicities and races.  i find that the most common link among my multi-culti circle is music, particularly hip-hop.  this urban-gone-global phneomenon has opened doors of communication and community like nothing else.  though i’ve never experienced racial violence, i know several people (mostly men) who have.  through my experiences, i’ve learned to observe, listen…

Abra’s story

“i never went to preschool to pre-learn what to expect from a school, like my brothers and sister who had Mama right there in class to navigate; i was thrown in, really; left to find my own way with my daddy’s own personal philosophy on U.S. living/living black in my big head becuz he decided i was his first disciple. i lived to be in that back room with him where he taught me reading writing arithmetic “theorems are in the classroom, the real mathematics is in our streets.” i lived to be in that back room with him where he taught me reading writing arithmetic.  i understood the meaning of intergers, negative and imaginary numbers, and of course decimals, becuz “America is all about decimal/places.” I quote him often.  but what else do I do with that?  i was 4, 5, 6 years old then so i believed him. i took it to school, i preached it to other 5 and 6 year olds.  i soon became infamous for my defiance–refusals to pledge allegiance to “that idol”, being pinned down to receive ashes on Ashe Wednesday, and that was kindergarten. i went to 1st grade and raised hell in the name of God. i remember Ms. Ramos, our teacher, an Asian-looking woman who spoke Spanish, her reddish brown mushroom bob matching her darker red blazer; we went over a textbook—helicopters and gingerbread men? i remember we were tired, fussy, sleepy, restless.  i remember Betty Detty sat on my right, picking her nose and eating all that came out and i can remember thinking–please God don’t let her touch me! girl, don’t u dare touch me! just as nasty as daddy said; i remember the Puerto Rican twin girls–their backpacks and their mom’s keys had their flag on it (black americans have no flag, no nation to be proud of!); one sat directly in front of me, the other kitty corner from me; i remember she was the one who had to pee so badly, her leg shaking.  and Ms. Ramos was still, asking us, to answer her questions.  i remember knowing the answer and raising my hand, and looking around for other hands but only seeing Betty’s up her nose then in her mouth and moving across her desk, the other twin’s was holding her sister’s and telling her to hold her pee in a just a little longer,  and seeing the pee leak out from her seat and run right on down the back of her seat and collect in a puddle on the floor slowly out into the aisle moving towards my feet i remember looking back at Ms. Ramos still shaking, waving my arm, thinking–call on me please call on me i know the answer call on me before Betty touches me with her nasty little white snotty hands call on me so puerto rican twin can go to bathroom and stop peeing on herself and all over the floor before her pee gets on my feet please call on me before my arm aches so much it falls off you better call on me or else i’ll yell out the answer “Elephants!”  i remember Ms. Ramos’ face was so red it matched her hair and her blazer when i yelled out the answer, she put her face in my face yelling at me “who told you to shout out the answer? you little nigger you think you know everything!”  i remembered I slapped her and she stopped asking questions and sent off the twins to use the bathroom and told Betty to get tissue to clean her nose and i blacked out, not remembering much else.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s