The Black Renaissance, A Musical Resistance Against Racism, is now playing at the Black Ensemble Theater, located at 4450 N. Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois 60640. This production was written and directed by Jackie Taylor and will run through November 26, 2017.
We are living in a social climate where the call for Change by former President Obama’s administration is constantly under attack as the new administration led by President Trump is seeking to take America backwards hundreds of years with his political rhetoric which claims to make America Great Again. The question is, when was America great and for whom was it great? This question is debatable, depending on whom you ask.
The Black Renaissance is a musical, which tackles racism head-on from the historical perspective and shows the parallels between the oppression of people of color and how the old adages of slavery continues to affect them today. Jackie Taylor takes a courageous leap by producing this must-see musical. The Black Renaissance enlightens and entertains audiences while at the same time educating them.
With simple staging and colorful lighting, the powerful message was presented through the creative use of song and dance; which integrated Jazz, blues, rap and gospel. One might wonder how could the discussion of race be addressed in a tactful manner. Ms. Taylor does it cleverly by making the show interactive. While telling of the struggles of the African-American race, she does not bash their Caucasian counterparts. Throughout the production she makes it plain, “Not All White People Are Racist.” She also acknowledged many of the civil rights activists who gave their lives to stand by the side of African-Americans as they fought for racial equality.
A few highlights for me were during the selection 465 Years, performed by Dwight Neal; which took me personally on an emotional roller coaster, because it raised the question of how do the oppressed overcome the hurt they endure if they continue to be oppressed. Another selection that made an impact was Color Of Your Mind, because at the end of the day it’s not about the color of your skin, but the content of your character as stated by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe the song Break It Down was pivotal for many of the audience members, because it highlighted many of the statements made towards the African-American population that are both insensitive and racist. As a woman of color, many of those statements have been directed towards me, so it hit home. The entire cast did a wonderful job, but the three that stood out the most were Wendell Jackson, Rhonda Preston and Dwight Neal.
Jackie Taylor stated that this production was more than just a musical; it was the start of a movement, which is much needed in this day and time. She used this platform to not only explain why certain behavioral patterns exist among the African-American community, but most importantly what needed to be implemented in order to help change the mindset of some of the individuals within the community.
I enjoyed the entire production of The Black Renaissance, A Musical Against Racism. The messages were much needed and the historical aspects were accurate. I highly recommend the production, because it will incite dialogue between people of different cultures as well as educate one on how to approach the topic of Racism without fear and conflict. Ticket prices vary and can be purchased online at BlackEnsembleTheater website or by calling 773-769-4451.