POST: 'Notes From The Field' - WAKE UP AMERICA!

What's it about?

A solo performance by Anna Deavere Smith that focuses on the state of America in relation to the police system, police brutality, and living in America as a minority.

What'd I experience?

The play was about police brutality and what goes on in a community that is disenfranchised. One of the first events this play discussed was the unfortunate case of Freddie Gray. Gray was a 25-year-old African American man who was stopped by the police in Baltimore, MD because the cops alleged that he was carrying an illegal weapon. When the police got a hold of him, he was transported into different cop cars and during the transportation he fell into a coma and passed away. There were no facts that Gray had anything on him but he lost his life just because of an allegation.

I know the Freddy Gray story. I was aware but seeing this play WOKE ME UP, as a black man in America. It made me emotional seeing the videos of people in Baltimore starting riots and tearing businesses down in rage because of the police killing a man - got me really concerned for our future.

The screen on the stage showed all the police officers involved in this case and all of them got the charges dropped against them. In that moment I became numb. How could all 6 of them get off the hook? Not one of them was convicted? Looking at the screen I said “This could’ve been me. This could be my brother. This could be the black boy sitting in back or in front of me.” You never know what might happen to you when you walk out the door.

As this play kept going, it covered more events and let me know that every day that I walk out of my house I never know what might happen. It confirmed that I shouldn’t take a moment for granted, especially as an African American man in America.

Although the story line hit hard, the way that it was set up hit harder. Anna Deavere played so many different people in this one play. She played the pastor who was preaching at Freddie Gray's funeral, she played the camera person who recorded him getting arrested, she played an inmate in prison - she played so many different people who were victimized by the police - and she was each of them.

I’ve seen one woman/man shows before but none of these had as much impact on me. The topic of police brutality and the fact that she embodied so many people, made me feel like she had a personal connection to them and this story. You could see that she was a part of this story. As soon as the play ended I googled her name and low and behold she is actually from Baltimore, MD. That had to play a part in her commitment. I assume that she felt like she had to create this play because these events happened in her hometown.

If I could sum up this play in three words, it would be “WAKE UP AMERICA!” We need to make sure that we are aware of the state of America and that some people are in fact racist and prejudice against others. This play woke me all the way up.