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Black History Production Breaks Stereotypes

(Photo by Joy Bonala) Teonna Murphy, from left, Jasmine Washington and Amber Robinson rehearse songs as the "blues sisters" in "Testify" on Saturday, February 27, 2016 at Abilene Christian University's Cullen Auditorium.
(Photo by Joy Bonala) Teonna Murphy, from left, Jasmine Washington and Amber Robinson rehearse songs as the "blues sisters" in "Testify" on Saturday, February 27, 2016 at Abilene Christian University's Cullen Auditorium.

Khamisie Green understands that issues surrounding race can sometimes be uncomfortable- and his play titled, “Testify” is going to cause a lot of discomfort for the audience. Green is the president of the Black Students Association at Abilene Christian University. He wrote the play for this year’s Black History Production, which will be performed at 7 p.m. March 4 at the Paramount Theatre.

He said his objective in writing the play was to shed light on common stereotypes about the African-American community. He believes the only way to break down those stereotypes is to explore the “why” behind each one. The play is focuses on a young girl who tries to escape a broken home, only to end up in the company of a gang. There are other subplots in the play, each one featuring an African-American whose life is torn apart by harsh circumstances. Green said the play is heavy but does offer some comic relief.

“The play doesn’t necessarily end or begin the way that anybody would think a good play would end or begin,” Green said. “But that’s real life.”

He drew inspiration from his own life to write the play. As an African-American he grew up dealing with some of the problems shown in the drama. He also remembers his friends struggling through a lot of hardships.

“Every character’s name that is in the play, is somebody that I know personally,” Green said. “The stories are real.”

Green wants to remind the audience to look beyond stereotypes because if you look into the past of a drug dealer or a gang member, you’ll understand why and how their lives turned down a dark road.

“Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides, I’m going to sell drugs,” Green said. “The stigma is though that they’re lazy, but what happens when a person is hungry and can’t find a job, what else can they turn to.”

About 35 students make up the cast and live musicians will perform throughout the show. Ryan Randolph works in Resident Life at ACU, she’s also a BSA advisor. She’s watched hesitation and stage fright melt away with every rehearsal as students embrace their roles.

“They’re learning confidence and learning how to be professional and trust themselves and express their emotions,” Randolph said.

More than the performance itself, she is impressed that these students understand the big picture.

Randoph said ACU can be “a bubble” that shields students from the outside world but she is proud that these young actors can still recognize the struggles that many are going through.

“They know these characters, they’re not just fictitious and I think it speaks volumes that they’re willing to be the voice for different people,” Randolph said. “They may not have the money or the authority or the power to fix the world’s problems right now but they are able to bring awareness and so that’s a big deal.”

Tickets for “Testify” are free with donations being accepted to support communities suffering through a water crisis in Flint, Michigan.