CHICAGO LIVE / SECTION 13
Spotlight up to us— laying out flag, contemplatively, placing block atop it; then dumping out trash on top of that.
Performers recite 2 policy/rebuttal a piece (4 total) w/their dates/meanings, surrounding origin of “the box” (policies in Trinidad?) in darkness.
Performers put first body (FE) helped onto block. Body is frightened, resistance, hostile, angry. Paper is being attached.
Abra: “half breed from the West Indies put your load on the caboose of this stallion w/prime child-bearing hips…guaranteed to birth your own personal nation…buy her now …….going once, going twice, sold!” Body comes down.
Repeat process; Each performer recites another policy w/meaning in background darkness (4 total).
Second body (ABRA) is put onto block. Same sale process Body is less afraid/more knowing, fights back a little but is soon checked.
Fe: “full blood straight from Ghana. anybody looking for a cook…or a helluva wetnurse….she will breast feed a nation….show’em those pearly whites on sale now …..going once, going twice, sold!”
Performers recite another set of policies (2 total—argumentative).
Black out fades up some to dim. Spotlight fades down/less starkness
Repeat body (FELICIA) on block steps up. Turns around/runway pivot to show herself and smiles (false pride/bravado), this time runway/fashion attitude giving way to resignation/lack of choice/insecurity/vulnerability. She recites her own breed/stock.
Begins proundly stating her own qualities but by end is visibly naked/exposed/vulnerable and undressing revealing colored wardrobe.
“Black woman from Chi-town, and thanks to hip-hop and urban culture, I am a very hot commodity right now; grew up in the church, HIV-negative, college grad and home owner. Want me? get to the phones, sorry platinum cards only! Going once…going twice…sold?” [Abra lifts her off block, lays her down carefully.)
Background lights fade up.
ABRA hesitantly, but resolutely on block; projecting surrender, but contest/bitterness witnessing Fe’s vulnerability to this “American way” gazing confrontationally; releases some of the junk she’s holding; DOESN’T SPEAK just does perfunctory 360 on block, very slowly, “get a good look”/”voyeurism” and slowly undressing reveal colored costume. Lowers slowly to squat on the box, staring at audience as much as she is being stared at.
Felicia begins “Dear America” [when Abra got on block; should be just about done as Abra squats on the block].
Spotlight out/Up the yellow.
I’m worried about you, about us. Though I’m grateful for the opportunities & privileges citizenship affords me in this global economy, I loathe the apparent deficit in our moral economy. For better or worse, our histories are inextricably linked; bound in hypocrisy, hegemony and complacency.
If absolute power corrupts absolutely, what does absolute humanity do? Can you even imagine?
‘E pluribus unum’, ‘In God we trust’. These are the daily affirmations of our Cesarian roots–roots that bear the strange fruit of Imperialism, slavery, genocide. If gold is the only standard we adhere to, America, we stand to lose something infinitely more precious.
One of your concerned citizens anxiously awaiting change,
Other performer has been doing Felicia’s identity phrase (from the very beginning), amidst clutter.
Felicia turns block over, organizing some papers into a pile, and throwing remainder into the turned up block. Her self-made pile joins her pile of white clothes downstage left and she begins her Badu phrase.
Simultaneously and following Felicia’s lead, each performer does their “Dear America/Dear Trinidad” snippet as remainder does their beginning identity phrase; as they do they begin to make sense of the junk, the baggage, to organize it, pack it, embrace it—in order:
“Dearest Trinidad and Tobago,
I see now how difficult it is for you to understand our racial situation, our cemented link to our peculiar institution. Why are we so connected to a history that leaves us in need of psychotherapy? Why can’t we simply move on? Beautiful Trinidad, if only racism were history here, over and done with. But it isn’t; policies have removed slavery shackles, the internment camps, and the segregation signs, yet we remain enslaved by stereotypes of each other, insulate ourselves against global diversity, and marginalized out of full American citizenship and economic participation. Research and statistics prove it. Contemporary data substantiates that racial discrimination is alive and well here; it has become as natural to us as breathing and blinking; we have long internalized the artifacts of our frightening history. Racism is the foundation of our national identity; to some extent, to be American is to be racist. And being an American of color is to bear the weight of recognition; we are forced to see while other Americans have the privilege of wearing color blinders. But T&T, we also bear the weight of resistance; African-Americans, for example, as a nation within a nation, are known globally for historically organizing against/contesting any attempts to restrain, to shackle, to box, to entrap any body. People look at me here, even elsewhere and see some part of that legacy. You look at me and only see “America”. I want you to see my Africanness in America, see that it is deeply embedded within me, carefully preserved by my body, my speech, my action and that it is my proud, beautiful, resilient and fluid link to the African Diaspora…and to you in Trinidad and Tobago.
Ambivalently American and Diasporically yours, always,
Amidst the clutter, examining the clutter picking choosing papers to organize for each of their piles and throwing other papers into the receptacle.