Speaking the Ancestors’ Names: An Interview with Obeah Opera

By Savannah Clarke 

Obeah Opera is a hand clapping, foot stomping, spirit lifting, magical musical sensation. Steeped in Black music, sung entirely a cappella by a powerful all-female cast, Obeah Opera is a retelling of the legendary Salem witch trials from the fascinating perspective of Caribbean slave women. It is a ground-breaking dramatic work that redefines the traditional opera form by moving away from its European classical standard and using an array of different musical genres mainly found in what is termed ‘Black’ music such as spirituals, blues, jazz, gospel, traditional African, Caribbean Folk, Calypso, ska, R&B and reggae (taken from www.obeahopera.com).

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of hearing some excerpts of Obeah Opera. After feeling connected to the stories I watched on stage, I caught up with Nicole to hear more about the Salem Witch Trials, what inspired her to do Obeah Opera and the spiritual aspects they entail.

Nicole: A few factors were happening, it was around 2008 where I was investigating my spirituality. Since I work in film and television, I was on the road with a crew and a crewmember came to my room to ask something and he saw that I was burning a candle and that I had incense and water. So when he saw all of that, he went back and rumors spread that he called me a witch. Instead of freaking out I said to myself: that’s really interesting. In this day and age, people are asking me “are you a practicing witch?” So, that was one of the stems where I thought it was really interesting. Also, at that time I was investigating African spirituality and looking more within my cultural roots and/or the Caribbean and/or African spirituality. Just learning and discovering.

I would say that was the catalyst for me, outside of a few people encouraging me to write for stage. I am really committed to telling Black women’s stories. I’ve always said it’s really important we have writers. Creators of content, [who are] creating work. So it was a combination of things and with all of those things happening it was very serendipitous for me to stumble upon researching witches more and of course eventually the Salem Witch Trials came up, which was the most famous witch trials in the America’s. As well, the name Tituba came up. Tituba was made famous through the play The Crucibles by Arthur Miller. She was the first Black slave accused at the Salem Witch Trials. She was from Barbados. I thought that was huge! How did we just bypass that? It’s written in history. It’s referenced a lot but then she’s forgotten. So I started to do more research and what I discovered was, yes indeed Tituba was a slave from Barbados who was brought to Salem and that there were more Black women in the Puritan town. This is real historical facts… Although, there weren’t that much written about them, TItuba had the most information and her testimonial was also transcribed. The testimonials of a couple of Black women were also there such as Mary Black and Candy. I thought it was fascinating because people never thought this town had slaves in the late 1600s/early 1700s. It’s amazing to not only “stumble” onto Tituba and realize that there were other black women from the Caribbean who were brought as slaves but were going beyond 100 years plus from where slavery is usually popularized in the 1800s in America. So, it’s really interesting to see the different factors that brought me to this story but also realizing the different facets of what I’m dealing with in regards to Black women’s history and Caribbean history. Now the question in writing this story is not about the first crossing of slaves coming from Africa, it’s the second crossing of slaves coming from the Caribbean to America. What’s that story? We don’t talk about that. What was the stop from Africa to the Caribbean and then from the Caribbean to the America’s?

The other thing that really excited me was the word Obeah, which I found in some of my research. I asked myself how are these white men referencing Obeah? Which was another indication to me that certain practices from the Caribbean really stayed in this Puritan town. For me, I didn’t realize at the time how controversial it was to use the word Obeah in our communities because of the negative connotations it holds and because of slavery, how we were told if we practiced anything or used our drum, anything that represented us, we would be lynched and killed. So, we have literally inherited all the way up to present day that Obeah in itself is evil. Without investigating what it is and I’m not saying that people don’t use Obeah for bad but I’m saying similar to any practice or religion, we have both sides. In Obeah Opera, I definitely look at the positive, which included having grandmas who knew how to use herbs to heal and midwifery. We were women who knew of these things and that true power threatens men, especially white men.

This is all to say that a whole bunch of factors contribute to how Obeah came to be. I can say the base of it is based on claiming back my story. Which includes the Black woman’s story, stories of the Caribbean and Africa. My people, and I’m not ashamed to say that. I’m very committed to the vantage point of the women’s story and retelling/rewriting history from my people’s lens after being excluded from history for so long.

When I saw you do your performance in Guelph you also mentioned that a lot of the knowledge and stories you gathered came from a very spiritual place of trying to evoke the energy of your ancestors. Can you touch on what that was like for you?

Nicole: Yeah, it’s not a secret that it’s based on the Orisha spirituality practice. When looking at the play you will see that each of the main female characters represents an Orisha and have those characteristics. I also show in the play that slaves, which is known, would go at night into the forest to practice Orisha or celebrate who they were. In there, I wanted to really show the strength of the slaves to not only survive the middle passage but also have the innovations and intuitiveness to preserve themselves. Such as hiding their practice in Catholicism because a lot of the Orisha practice is blended in with the Catholic religion. Also, what’s written in the script is paying homage to our Caribbean methodology, which is based in carnival. In the script, each character represents a carnival character and holds those respective characteristics. As I develop as a storyteller, I am beginning to realize that my components of storytelling are evolving to be based on history and telling Caribbean folklore and spirituality.

When I saw you perform, it was really powerful for me especially being from a Trinidadian background. It was beautiful for me to see those stories be brought back to voices of Black women and it was incredibly healing for me. What does it mean for you to be able to reclaim and explore these stories?

Nicole: I think it’s taken me a long time but I think that I am fulfilled in my practice. I realized that I am extremely privileged to have been afforded the opportunities that have been given to me. For example, it’s not easy to mount a play and the fact that I’ve had the opportunity on more than one account to mount this work is more than incredible. And that means a lot to me. I’m really happy that earlier on in my life I knew exactly what I was put on this earth to do. Now, it just continues to manifest and evolve as I evolve. I am a storyteller. That is what I do. Outside of this privilege, I also see my responsibility in being able to create stories for my children and my children’s children…Right now I am fighting the good fight of not moving away from the stereotype and heralding who we are and our history. Not being ashamed. Embracing our culture and our music in all of it’s glory.

I would love for Obeah Opera to debut in Salem so I can honor the women and the ground they were on because the women were real, these aren’t characters they are real people in history that were ignored. When you speak the ancestors name that’s what keeps them alive. If I were to sum it up, that’s what I do. I speak their name. To hold that mantle up, it’s an honor. We have the responsibilities to keep and tell our stories.

The more I work with other Black folks to help in the liberation of our people the more I realize this work needs to go hand in hand with spiritual healing and connecting with our storytellers. How do you feel social justice movements can incorporate this type of work and bring about the healing necessary so we can feel grounded in moving forward?

Nicole: Wow, that’s a deep question. I think that inherently the work (storytelling) in a social movement in itself. Obeah Opera is that. The reason I say that is that I’ve been told on more than one occasion, not only from Black women but from women period, the fact you’ve put us on stage in this positive light infuses, induces and demands change because you’re shifting perspective. The work that is on stage has ritual, so in fact, you are healing. So that’s Obeah Opera and through this we are liberating ancestors because they’re being showcased and they’re able to tell their story. The whole thing about not being silenced anymore; Obeah Opera or anything through the arts becomes a vehicle for voice, so that in itself is a vehicle for social justice, because social justice deals with voice and demands justice. Obeah Opera, as I see, demands justice. That’s why I’m saying before Broadway, I’d love to go to Salem and just honour the women and what they lived through and what they survived through and let them know that they are not forgotten. The biggest thing, what has happened to our people, to Black people, they erase the history and if you have no history, you are nothing. That is part of the genocide. that is why people burn documents, because they don’t want you to exist anymore. So when you realize that when you claim back history, claim back things that have happened, claim back your religion or your heritage, that in itself is a social justice act. When you remember your ancestors and your history and bring it to the forefront, that is a social justice act. When you remember and step into who you are, that inherently is healing. So my message is that even just being is part of social justice, in the sense that acceptance is part of social justice, in the sense that speaking the ancestors names, claiming the history and demanding you are not forgotten is social justice.

Obeah Opera loves #blacklivesmatter because the women in Salem’s lives matter and they will not go down in vain and neither will we because we’re standing up and taking responsibility. Even the hashtag #oscarssowhite and the hashtag #broadwaynotsowhite is interesting because this year is an interesting year. The Color Purple was back on Broadway, Fela! was there for a very long time, we have Hamilton, we have Eclipsed, which is the first ever Black woman written, Black woman directed and all female Black women cast on Broadway. I look at that as a paved way because I’m like “I’m coming!”. You know what I mean?

Media and the arts play a huge role in social justice. It brings awareness, it propels the message. I even say that television is the greatest propaganda tool of all time. So being able to see the messages and hear the stories is social justice too. Nina Simone once said that “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times” and that quote changed my life. Or even Billie Holiday when she wrote “Strange Fruit.” Look at what art has done to propel the movement. Even beyond Malcom X, the people involved with Black Lives Matter and other people standing up; the music, the tools of media, all of those things play a huge impact and it also deals with healing.

Spiritual healing comes in ancestral acknowledgement. Spiritual healing come from acknowledging and understanding your history and claiming it. I think in particular with Obeah Opera we have to have a town hall meeting in a version of the play because people people were ripping down the posters saying thing was a devil ting and we called in the community to talk about it and I realized how it transcends what we were taught. We were taught that we had, what we believed in, what we practiced, our cultural practices, our religious practices we wrong and we were told Christianity is the only way. I’m going to be very careful because some people might get offended and say “Christianity is very important to me”. What I’m saying is that the healing comes into saying that who we were was not evil, we were not evil. We were told we were evil.

I want to end with a quote from the play. A quote from a song called “My Mother’s Name” and the words go “So I stand in my mother’s name and those before her who took on the blame, for all the daughters who inherited the shame, for all the women who will never be the same, I’m gonna stand”. That’s healing.


Nicole Brookes
Nicole Brooks is a Toronto-based filmmaker, director, performer, singer, playwright, composer, curator, teacher and ‘art-ivist’. She has developed the concept of “harmonized storytelling”; blending media and performing arts, Brooks has spent over 15 years envisioning narratives that illuminate the peoples of the African Diaspora. Through her company Asah Productions Inc., founded in 2005, Brooks has generated an impressive body of work for both stage and screen.  To learn and follow Brooks’ latest work, please visit www.obeahopera.com; Twitter: @obeahopera; YouTube: obeahopera.

Sonnet MCLXXI

A poem by Tanaya Winder

Tanaya Winder is a poet, vocalist, writer, educator, and motivational speaker from the Southern Ute, Duckwater Shoshone, and Pyramid Lake Paiute Nations. She received a BA in English from Stanford University and after completing her MFA in creative writing from the University of New Mexico, she co-founded As/Us: A Space for Women of the World, a literary magazine publishing works by Indigenous women and women of colour. www.tanayawinder.com


 

Chief Lady Bird
Chief Lady Bird is a Chippewa and Potawatomi artist from Rama First Nation and Moosedeer Point First Nation, who is currently based in Toronto. Through her art practice, Chief Lady Bird uses street art, community-based workshops, digital illustration and mixed media work to challenge the lens that Indigenous people are often viewed through. Her work subverts the dominant culture’s frequent fetishization of Indigenous culture by highlighting the diverse experiences that we all come from.

Redefining Brown Bodies Through Art

an illustration of a magical girl wearing a nose to ear chain and a awoken third eye

An Interview with Chitra Ganesh

By: Shabina Lafleur-Gangji

As a South Asian woman I feel the complexities around how colonialism have shaped our minds and imaginations are rarely explored. So often brown bodies are depicted as non-sexual and dirty. This is why Chitra Ganesh, a Brooklyn based artist, has always inspired me.

Ganesh explores topics like shadeism, sexuality, diasporic experience and colonialism in a way that allows the viewer the witness the current state and reimagine the possibilities. the current state and reimagine the possibilities. For this issue of the Peak I was lucky enough to be able to get in touch with her to ask her about her work.

Shabina Lafleur-Gangji: As an artist, what inspires you to explore sexuality and depictions of darker skinned brown women in your work? What is the role that art can play in helping us reclaim our histories and our imaginations?

Chitra Ganesh: I am interested in expanding the bounds of what kinds of female bodies are visible, legible and represented in both art historical and mass mediated contexts, such as fashion, entertainment, and popular cultures. More often than not, we come into contact with an extremely limited pictorial range of female bodies –whether this is in mainstream culture or within the realm of the art historical canon. Art historically speaking, within the traditions of Western Classical and European art, brown and black women are frequently adornments to their (white) protagonists and counterparts- anonymous maid servants, wet nurses, handmaidens, slave labor, and so forth. They are literally relegated to the pictorial margins, or blend into the backdrop. The ambiguously gendered subordinate black figure in Manet’s “Olympia” is a key example of this, where brown and blacks women’s anonymity props up white female sexuality. In mainstream representations across the globe, dominant images of women veer towards extraordinarily thin, young, hairless, light skinned, and more. My own frustration and boredom around this reductive visual monotony in part inspires me, and so I make the kinds of images I would like to see in the world. Art gives me, us, the capacity to imagine something beyond the existing norms- space where non normative bodies, attitudes, and affective or psychic states can inhabit, thrive, and desire in a potent imaginary field. Among many other things, art and a gender based critique of power are exceptional liberatory tools to harness as we move forward.

Shabina: How do you feel that the experience of class/ of shadeism differs from South Asia to countries like United States and Canada?

Chitra: As I see it, each particular place has its own geopolitical context, a history of hundreds (or hundreds of thousands) of years that inform attitudes towards skin color. In both Eastern and Western hemispheres, skin color has long been a signifier of class– a differentiating marker between manual laborers, say, and a ruling class who have the privilege of being at home while others toil under the sun.

On the South Asian subcontinent, these distinctions certainly converge with caste oppression, which mandates the harshest and most brutal forms of labor to be performed by Dalit populations. The US certainly has a very unique construction and framework of race.  One thing that this election has taught me is how much of our national history and current politics are built on the back of anti-black racism and the legacy of slavery. On the one hand, anti-black racism and the caste system both produce social and economic oppression that are alive and well today, and in many way, form the backbone of their respective nations. On the other hand these two histories are irreducibly singular, though they can be strategically considered in the same frame to render legible how these oppressions continue to operate in everyday life on the 21st century– for example, to raise visibility around issues of caste oppression in an American context.

Shabina: How do you feel the colonial legacy impacts the way South Asians are seen and the way we related to our own bodies?

Chitra: I think attributing the preponderance of South Asian subject formation to British Colonialism doesn’t do justice to engaging the incredibly complex politics and history have operated in South Asia long before and after British occupation. I think the British colonial legacy in one piece in a much larger puzzle of histories and attitudes that inform how we may see ourselves and one another. The legacies of American imperialism and xenophobia also perpetuate these continued poles of orientalism and illegibility that South Asian women, for example, have to face on a daily bases. Our identification(s) in the US may be as is as much a product of how misogyny, islamophobia, and xenophobia continue to operate here. Incidences of anti-muslim hate based attacks have risen 67% in the US in the past year – and this is the tip of the iceberg, only that which has been reported. And how frequently do we see these issues, or Standing Rock, for example, mentioned in mainstream American politics?

Shabina: One of your more recent exhibits Protest Fantasies focuses of global resistance to violence on bodies and land. Can you talk what the inspiration was behind it?

Chitra: The particular theme of Protest Fantasies came about by just being really struck and amazed by the power of protest in this moment. It’s been an ongoing part of my life, whether in 2003/4 to protest the Iraq War or any number of things, but then really looking at a lot of the images of die-ins and talking to another artist friend of mine, they look almost like history paintings. The gestures are just extremely performative. There are so many versions of how people are thinking about protests now.

One piece Rana Plaza depicts images of the women who survived the Bangladesh sweatshop collapse, and this is their one-year anniversary performance, getting ready to march and sing. It’s indistinguishable from performance art. Similar to monks who set themselves on fire as a form of protest against China’s oppression of Tibet.

The piece Femme Power captures the rich emotional texture of wanting to resist — tears of rage that ferment into something. It brings out the part of an otherwise peace-loving person that can’t deal anymore.

I feel that exposing that pain with a sense of agency is really powerful. It’s not a kind of victimization. I think empathy is as important as fantasy. And art enables empathy. And if you remove some of reality from the story, people feel more comfortable empathizing with a different character. I think that’s how science fiction works, for example.

We’re artists, and our role is also that of translator — to translate things from one mode of expression to another within our own practice. To get from journal to memoir to essay to a poem, and use that translation to invite the audience to step in. I feel like myth does that too.


Chitra Ganesh
Chitra Ganesh is a Brooklyn based artist widely recognized for her experimental use of comic and large-scale narrative forms that bring to light representations of femininity, sexuality, and power typically absent from canons of literature and art.

Shabina Lafleur-Gangji
Shabina is a queer mixed race weird witchy lady from Guelph who is into community organizing and revolution.

An Interview with D’Bi Young

by Savannah Taylor

I recently sat down with d’bi.young anitafrika to discuss the importance of theatre in our digital age and to learn more about how The Watah theatre, a professional theatre company founded by d’bi.young, cultivates such a necessary space in this urgent time

The Watah Theatre – grounded in African Oral Storytelling traditions – is a crossroads where the radical performance traditions of Dubpoetry, Caribbean theatrical storytelling and Black wombanist thought, intersect with critical Pan-Africanist theory-into-practice, Ifa-Tao-Buddhist principles, balanced by the global mind-body healing modalities of Ashtanga Yoga and Qi Gong. Arts-engagement sits at the core of the organization’s commitment to providing world peoples with the tools to self-actualize, create urgent art and uncover crucial mentorship skills for each one to teach one; facilitating an ongoing exploration of our place on this planet and in this cosmos. Watah celebrates the artist as a whole human entity who mirrors society and helps to shape it circularly and inwardly. Like being in a mother’s loving womb where the child is nurtured and cultivated, Watah is a cauldron of cultivation for a new generation of storytellers.

Savannah Taylor: Can you introduce yourself ?

D’bi Young Anitafrika: My name is d’bi young anitafrika and I am a storyteller who writes plays, performs in monodramas and multi-character plays, who mentors, writes dub poetry, who plays with a band, who writes revolutionary theory and who’s a mother.

Savannah: Can tell us more about the Watah Theatre?

D’bi Young: The Watah Theatre is a professional theatre company and also training ground for emerging and newly emerging artists. It’s primarily for black artist and within that it is primarily for artist who identify as women. Our doors are open to people of colour, Indigenous people, LGBTQ people and trans people. We’ve really never turned anyone away but everyone who comes through our doors knows that we are primarily serving African Canadian artists because that is absolutely crucial right now.

Savannah: Theatre isn’t the first thing I would think of if someone asked me about media but why do you think is it still so crucial in 2016?

D’bi Young: I think theatre is media because media is storytelling and media is storytelling geared towards people and media has very specific objectives. Whatever media we’re talking about that propaganda and narrativizing storytelling is geared towards getting people’s attention in a particular way. Theatre is storytelling as well and it is also geared towards getting people’s attention in a particular way. [That’s why] I really do feel that we can say theatre is a type of media. What’s most important to me when I think of all of this is what stories are we telling? You know? I can’t help but think about what has just happened in the United States of America. A part of me feels like acknowledging that, as a black queer women, artist and mother, my reality has always been to create space for myself to be valued, to treated fairly, to be treated equally and that has been life long reality. Part of me feels like, well the world that you live in is going to continue to be the world that you live in. Then there is another part of me that can’t help but respond to the over aggression that has already begun and will continue to escalate given that the veil that was prior somewhat concealing the deep hatred of black people, indigenous people, LGBTQ people and differently abled people, immigrants, the working class and the working poor. Basically, all the people who are not the elite and who are not the upper middle class. To see the sheer disdain for us, even while I recognize that this life of struggle will continue, there is a tangible worry. There is now a tangible worry around the fact that people have been issued a renewed license to be violent. So when I think about media and I think about theatre and I think about the role that the media played in getting Donald Trump elected and the role that the theatre that we’re making plays in maintaining systems of inequality, I can’t help but think about what stories are we going to tell?

Savannah: As a student at Watah, I know that those are questions we ask ourselves and we talk about. How do you feel Watah provides tools for emerging artist to create this space that you mentioned earlier?

D’bi Young: More so now then ever, I am deeply appreciating Watah and the work that we’re doing here. Sometimes you get confirmation about the choices you’re making. More so than ever, I am reminding myself and saying, “d’bi just stay focused. Just stay focused”. What we are doing in here is absolutely revolutionary and simple. It’s not high-inaccessible science or intellectualism, it’s actually pretty basic. Our premise here is that each one of us has been born into a birth right that says we deserve to self-actualize. It’s that simple. So, colour, race, ethnicity, gender, social standing, all of these ways that we create these walls that people have to climb in order to prove their humanity, In this space we say we don’t actually believe that narrative and we’re going to try to practice what it looks like to not believe in that narrative. We’re not even working in counter-narratives; we’re not even working in opposition to those narratives. Actually, we’re centering ourselves and saying those narratives are not the focal point, the focal point is us. This, more than ever, I’m so deeply thankful for and we have a set of real tools to support us through doing this. They are real and tangible tools that when we sit down and we dialogue about self-knowledge; about the stories we’ve been told and orality; and the rhythmic rituals of our lives; and the politics of our own power and the language of our own bodies and mouths; and about what is urgent and sacred to us and how we embody our integrity. That is not intangible. That is not theatrical mumbo jumbo. It’s so important that as we work through these ideas around self-actualization that we have tangibles. My physical body, my mental body, my community body, my economic body, my emotional body, these are real pieces that we experience every day and I am so bolstered by the fact that this is how I spend my time. As I look around at the shear madness that is going on, I am like how do I spend my time? What do I spend my time doing? It feels like a daunting time but it also feels like, right here inside of me are the tools I need to move through these times. You know? That’s a really rounding feeling.

Savannah: Can you explain in more detail self-actualization and the S.O.R.P.L.U.S.I Method is?

D’bi Young: Here at Watah we really encourage each artist to define for themselves these ideas. Because we’re unique, because we each have a particular framework and way or lense through which we see the world you’re never going to get any two people, at least here, defining something in the same way. Which is brilliant because it means that if you have a definition and I have a definition it means that together we can sit and look at all our definitions and learn from each other. That’s really crucial. Other models out there tell us that there is one way and one direction. One, phallic white, male, patriarchal framework but what we come from as black people and women identified people is that we come from the circle, from the collective. In that model, these are indigenous models, in the collective each point on the circle is crucial. So, in defining self actualization, I feel for me it could the ability to grow into the deepest version of one’s self. What’s the deepest version of one’s self? I feel like it is where one gets to explore and expand into one’s most profound integrities. What is one’s most profound integrities? Well, I feel like that is the ability to truth tell without self-deception to the best of one’s ability in each and every moment. I feel like the idea of self-actualization is both at once extremely dynamic and complex but also simple.

In terms of the Anitafrika Method, the method is essentially a distillation of all the mentorship that I’ve received over a lifetime. What I’ve done is taken those life lessons and highlighted what I feel are eight crucial principles. Four of those principles directly come out of my mother’s work in theorizing dub [theatre] in Jamaica. The four principles that directly come out of her work are politics, language, performance and music. I tweaked them a bit and so language is language of communication, non-verbal communication; music became rhythm, rhythm as ritual; politics became politics and political context; and performance became orality. Then I added four other principles self-knowledge, urgency, sacredness and integrity [ Which creates the acronym S.O.R.P.L.U.S.I] . That then forms half a system that is balanced with eight bodies [some I mentioned earlier]which includes the physical, mental, emotional, creative, spiritual, economic, community, and beyond body. So together with the principles and the bodies we have a series of questions we ask, per principle, and also a series of meditations that accompany these questions. It’s really such a beautiful thing. Of course I’ve had the pleasure of being in the lab with all of you who teach me every day what the method actually means.

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The Watah theatre currently has a funding campaign online in order to continue to provide the mentorship discussed above. Will YOU help SAVE Watah? Visit www.gofundme.com/savewatah to read more on how you can help.


d’bi.young anitafrika
d’bi.young anitafrika is a queer Black feminist artist, United Nations speaker, Canadian Poet of Honor, InkTalks/TED speaker and YWCA Woman of Distinction. The internationally celebrated African-Jamaican dubpoet, dramatist, educator, director and dramaturge is also a 3 time Dora Award winning writer-performer for her epic triptych of plays The Sankofa Trilogy and The Orisha Trilogy. anitafrika’s groundbreaking creative praxis – the Anitafrika Method – uses the Sorplusi Principles as an intersectional anti-oppression human development framework, which is studied and practiced globally by artists, instigators and policy-makers. d’bi is the founding Artistic Director of Watah; Canada’s only professional theatre company that offers year-long tuition-free artist residencies to Black and diverse artist-instigators. She is also the founder and CEO of The Sorplusi Institute and Sorplusi Publishing, a research-based social enterprise with a micro press extension producing and publishing works by Black and diverse creators. Author of 7 plays, 6 dub albums and 5 books, d’bi has toured nationally and internationally.

Savannah Taylor
Savannah Taylor is a young performing artist. She has recently graduated with her undergraduate and  is an alumni of the Watah Theatre. She is now currently growing her art form. Her art has always been attached to her identity as a black queer woman and she strongly believes that storytelling is essential for the movement of black liberation.  While she continues to unearth what her artistry can look like, she stays committed to connecting and understanding the integrity of its roots.

Untitled

illustration of three women. One in a bra and underwear texting, the other taking a selfie and the other posing for a photo

by Kamika Peters

The dialogue is between two young black, femme adults/millennials. Illustrating how the ability to screenshot has influenced culture and the culture of ‘receipts’ (which is a african-american vernacular coined by queers basically meaning ‘proof’ – used in reference to someone being problematic). As well as, how screenshots allow us to archive, collect, call-out, and curate personal online profiles, media, gossip and other stories.

INTERIOR: FOOD COURT

Two black femmes are sitting in a booth, facing each other. Their orders from the menu are splayed out in front of them. OW and SLAYOMIE are eating with one hand and on their phone with the other.

OW:

damn, she even made a photo album called ‘the tea room’. it’s got a kermit picture and everything. screenshots of conversations. you’re in there too! you want to see?

SLAYOMIE:

I know. do you forget she @’d me?

OW:

she’s really coming for everybody. i can’t believe she came for my mom. my mom is a lovely woman, leave her alone!

SLAYOMIE:

it’s a good thing that i called him. he showed me other parts of the messages that she left out.

OW:

good. (shakes head) this girl she’s now going for now, have you seen the conversations? how she lured this one into a public psychological diagnosis? (cackles)

Dr. Phil stahp! it’s not right to out someone like that.

SLAYOMIE:

she went into archives to find them. so much has changed since the summer.

OW:

I know right?! she came for me at 9am. trying scalp me while i still had crust in my eyes. rocked my night scarf off.

Slayomie holds her arm out, her phone in OW’s direction. Looking disappointed, she hops out of her side of the booth and joins OW. She squishes OW and holds her arm out.

SLAYOMIE:

act right! (poses, snaps photos) k, got it! (heads back to seat) i’m still laughing ‘cos he’s so awkward. i thought it was just to me, but here are the receipts that it’s with everyone. hi exclamation mark. night exclamation mark. have you seen how he texts me? i can show you?

OW:

(laughing)

yes, every time you send me screens, i try not to die.

SLAYOMIE:

awe, your mom is so cute. she’s liking all my pictures. (pause)(laughing) she posted

the photo we just took of us to her page!

OW:

i taught her how to screenshot, so she wouldn’t harass me to send her photos. she can steal as many as she wants of me now from the intranet.

SLAYOMIE:

what’s going on with you and your man? he’s so fine, did you put that chocolate bar emoji on his face? is it really like that?

OW:

it wasn’t me! he probably did it for me and any other side combo.

SLAYOMIE:

girl, what are you doing?

OW:

you have proof that i clearly don’t know.

CUT TO BLACK

THE END


Kamika Peters
Kamika Peters is an odd, twenty-something years old budding multi-disciplinary artist who happens to be a black, queer, femme with disabilities born on Algonquin territory to West Indian guardians. Predominately self-taught and interested in exploring  complex truths in their identity, their trauma, and the oppressive paradigms that exist in their world using many mediums.