The Black History Museum… According to the USA

Tabatha Gayle, Marcia Berry and Langston Darby portray black and white variations of America's founding fathers in Smoke & Mirrors Collaborative's production of Zoey Martinson's The Black History Museum... According to the United States of America at HERE. Original photo by Paula Court.
Is there anything to learn from this interactive pop-up museum of the black experience?

By Andrew Andrews

If you visit African Burial Ground National Monument, it quickly becomes apparent that southern plantation owners weren’t the only ones to use slave labor—in fact, most of colonial New York was built by slaves, and most of them were black.

The Black History Museum… According to the United States of America transforms all of HERE into an immersive, highly-interactive “museum” to convey the historical experience of black Americans over more than two hundred years.

This two-hour performance leads participants from the founding fathers’ hypocrisy about slavery, through emancipation, to the Civil Rights era and Black Power movements and beyond.

Occasional pauses in the action allow visitors to explore exhibits and installations, with plenty to read and observe about the experiences of specific individuals and the community at large.

At the beginning of the performance, a “magical mulatto” named Jasper Sasparilla presents the audience with “Honorary Black Cards” and announces the ground rules to temporarily share in the black experience for the duration of the show.

Through audience participation, you’ll get an artistically-tempered, often darkly comical taste of how it might have felt to attend a slave auction, convert to Christianity, and decide what action to take when confronted with opportunities for advancement in society that are literally and figuratively often “one step forward, two steps back.”

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Andrew Andrews attended The Black History Museum… According to the USA at HERE Arts Center in New York on Thursday, November 7, 2019 @ 5:00pm to write this review.

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