Ava DuVernay’s Academy-nominated documentary 13th exposes the intrinsic flaw of America’s 13th Amendment. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
While abolishing slavery is well and good – how did it ever happen in the first place?! – the amendment allows for the practice to continue through the penal system, a system that systematically incarcerates black males in America, a population that, only 4% of the overall population, accounts for 40% of prisoners. DuVernay outlines America’s dismal history of discrimination and servitude, citing Jim Crow laws as well as the systematic targeting of black leaders such as Angela Davis and Black Panther Fred Hampton.Presidents Nixon, Reagan and Clinton are all indicted for the role in the morass as well as So-Called President Trump. Most insidious of all is the monetization of the mass incarcerations – corporations such as WalMart and Time Warner directly profiting from these policies – as well as the understanding that another iteration of the racist laws awaits us all. DuVernay’s film needs to be seen. Okay, so what are you doing? Watch it now!
The time is now. It isn’t tomorrow. Not yesterday. Today. Anna Deavere Smith delivers a series of remarkable monologues – remarkable for their raw content as well as her impeccable delivery – espousing the immediacy of action in her one-woman show Notes from the Field. Ms. Smith moves through the most recent canon of youtube videos and news clips, spotlighting the on-going flagrant abuse of human rights meted by the police on our black youth. The images – horrifying not only for their stark violence but also their all-too-familiar content – offer a window on a society in terrible flux, on the verge of change. And that, Ms. Smith says, is the key. It is a window of change, an opportunity to join forces and effect movement, guide the politicians toward investment in the future, not in law and order, but in chance for the disenfranchised by the decaying system, the off-spring of the psychological damaged society founded on slavery.
Ms. Smith opens and closes the show by citing Sherrilyn Ifill, President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund: “I encourage your discomfort, that you must contribute, that you must make your voice heard.” “That is the essence of good citizenship, that bone-deep sense of obligation that you must work to improve our democracy, and to improve it especially for those who are most marginalized and most in need.”
See the show! Playing in New York now: http://2st.com/shows/current-production/notes-from-the-field