New act explores race, privilege
The ensemble performance at USM’s Gulf Park Campus Feb. 16 in Long Beach raised questions about what is “Black PriviLEDGE?”
Before the performance the director, senior theatre design and technology major, Kensey Coleman told the troupe to break a leg.
The troupe’s name is Harlem. It is composed of African American thespians, dancers and all types of entertainers.
Coleman, whom worked on the play since the summer 2015, welcomed everyone
in attendance. “There is always one showcase per semester,” Coleman said. “I thought why not? I was inspired by the racial tensions of late.”
Three images filled out the stage. One image was a black figure with the word “Harlem” written in colors above. Another was clearly an African figure. The figure was adorned with all sorts of different types of garb that would be typical of the different African tribes. The figure also had his fist raised. The last image was that of a noose, a cross and a crown. All of those images have deep seeded feelings associated with them within the black community.
One scene depicted five black people wearing white masks trying to be something they are not. The scene ended with the line, “Be who you are.”
In the barbershop scene, black privilege was associated with a few notable concepts in the black community. The most notable concept was allowing materialistic views to determine self-worth.
The play presented the question: Is modern black culture is a farce?
In another scene, a person stood on stage alone and spoke his inner frustrations about, among other things, being the only black
friend to 37 white friends. He also spoke about creating a bridge to true self.
The play touched on issues facing black people and their identity in society today. Coleman thinks black people today feel as if they are owed something.
“We as a community [are owed,]” Coleman said. “Black people, we have a tendency to feel entitled.”
What is black privilege anyway?
“It can’t be defined,” Coleman said. “It is important to bring exposure to the aesthetic of privilege though.”
Coleman said Harlem has never traveled from Hattiesburg to perform as a troupe before the performance at the Gulf Park Campus.
“Harlem is about growth,” Coleman said. “We send out feelers at the beginning of each semester to find new members.”
The final line of the play asked black people to raise fists for something you believe in.