Meet 5 Black Highschool Playwrights Who Confront Gun Violence
ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence lends its stages to convey what gun violence can do to not only the community at large but also an individual.
ENOUGH! Plays to End Gun Violence lends its stages to amplifying young theater makers who have witnessed first-hand what gun violence can do to not only a community at large but also an individual. Now, these passionate voices are being heard all over the United States, NPR reports.
Black children and teens experience staggeringly high rates of gun deaths, in part because of deliberate policy decisions that created segregated neighborhoods and underinvestments in their communities. They are also deeply impacted when a friend or family member is killed with a gun when someone they know is injured, and when they witness and hear gunshots.
Artistic producer and playwright Michael Cotey launched Enough! in 2019 with a clear mission to create art from the devastating impact and harness this generation’s spirit of activism. Thanks to this platform, NPR reported that six teens participated in a high school playwrighting contest and were selected as finalists to stage their award-winning 10-minute plays in theaters across the country. What’s more? In addition to a stipend, the youngsters gain production, publishing, and workshop opportunities.
The 2023 ENOUGH! Nationwide Reading was produced in Washington, D.C., at The Kennedy Center’s Studio K! Curtains opened on Nov. 6.
Among the ambitious authors are five Black playwrights who inspired meaningful action to end gun violence over the past two years.
“THE SMILES BEHIND” BY NIARRA C. BELL
With a passion for performing arts, Virginia native Niarra C. Bell leans on her experience in acting, directing, and backstage technical work to help the movement against gun violence. She is currently studying acting in college. “When tragic situations happen between African Americans and the police, we’re quick to villainize police officers,” Bell told NPR. “So I really wanted to write a play not only from the perspective of an African American but also someone who respects our police force.”
“NO PROSPERING WEAPONS” BY JUSTIN CAMERON WASHINGTON
Justin Cameron Washington is a Michigan native and writer who tells stories that “address a lack of representation,” the website stated. He makes it his business not only to create but to tap into his power to impact others. As a participant in the Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit, Washington published his first-ever piece titled “Please Don’t Mind My Mind,” which brought attention to mental health issues among the youth community. He brings a dynamic skillset of performance, photo and video production, and design to create other masterpieces such as “JUScreatedbycam” to act as a “somewhat blank canvas for his creations while in high school.”
SOUTHSIDE BY MCKENNZIE BOYD
McKennzie Boyd lives in South Side Chicago, where gun and gang violence has been notorious for devastating families. “As a Black person, I want to explain that my melanin is not a weapon and to remove the stigma in the Black community,” she said. Boyd’s passion for poetry transcends beyond the notebook, leading her to read plays, act, and even manage plays. Boyd has participated with the City Lit Acting Company throughout her creative endeavors. As a Steppenwolf’s Young Adult Council member, Boyd is currently fighting to “challenge the silence that confines Black and LGBTQ+ voices.”
ALLEGIANCE BY ARIANNA BRUMFIELD
Hailing from Jackson, Mississippi, Arianna Brumfield’s inspiration for her play began during a playwriting class at New Stage Theatre. After witnessing a community outcry, she chose to shed light on violence in underfunded communities and law enforcement positions. “I saw this happening and decided to write about how it affects younger people growing up around areas that face high amounts of gun violence,” Brumfield said.
SALTED LEMONADE BY TAYLOR LAFAYETTE
Taylor Lafayette, a playwright and poet from the Mississippi Delta, strives to exemplify Black excellence. She was moved to write her ENOUGH! play after the shooting of her 16-year-old brother. “I chose to focus on the aspect of gun violence within communities and how the grief of losing someone to gun violence can affect a family,” she said. She hopes to see stricter gun laws put in place for purchasing guns.