EPISODE 1 | Throw Your Hands In The Air (with RHAECHYL WALKER)
Last Spring, I went to see the play Dreamscape (also), based on a friend’s recommendation after sharing my reaction to Selma. The play rocked my core — it combined elements of hip-hop, spoken word, singing, and dancing to retell a tragic shooting that lives in the all too familiar grey intersection of humanity and law enforcement. It felt so incredibly poignant given the increasing number of similar stories populating the news, intensified by the fact that this incident happened in 1998 to a 19-year-old young woman. Writer/director Rickerby Hinds was driven to write the play more than a decade later as he was living in Cincinnati and 9 similar murders happened in the city over the course of a year. It’s the type of story that sadly has existed for decades and only seemsto be more prevalent than ever now thanks to technology. It’s birthed a Movement (edit: an iteration), sparked conversations at every level, and is marking a time of change in history.
I think these incidents are very tough to speak about. They’re wrapped in controversy, levels of systems beyond our control, and ambiguous judgment calls by strangers in environments I would personally find completely foreign. But the interesting, powerful effect of the recurring news headline or smartphone video is the number of conversations that are not left to as much ambiguity: on privilege, on humanity, on policy change that works to turn those same systems towards fairness. The One Thing has splintered off into A Dozen Things, all working in concert to bring about awareness and change. A seemingly political thing becoming an indisputably human thing.
One of the most valuable components of those conversations is this power of personal narrative — I stand by the fact that one person’s story can drive someone to understand an issue more than any amount of superlatives in a headline or statistical data in an article. Dreamscape did just that.
Rhaechyl plays the title character, and John “Faahz” Merchant complements her as the narrator through the voice of the 9–1–1 Dispatcher, Police Officer, and Coroner. He also is an incredibly gifted beatboxer and gives life to the play’s scene transitions with nods to hip-hop from the era and on themes of gun violence. I was lucky to sit down with both Rhaechyl and Faahz and talk about current events, their creative process, their backgrounds, and a lot of music (this Episode gives you a preview of Faahz — our full conversation will come soon).
The duo is part of a talented team working to adapt Dreamscape to a full-length feature titled My Name Is Myeisha. The film is in pre-production and currently has a Kickstarter campaign that I urge you to check out (they also post great updates on twitter). Help them continue to tell this story that has made and will continue to make a difference.
In this Episode, the following are referenced:
“Noisey: Bompton, Part 1″ (YouTube)
“Where are the diverse children’s books?” (MPR News)
“White Christmas” by Otis Redding (YouTube)
Rhaechyl’s recommended pieces of inspiration:
“We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar (Poetry Foundation)