You cannot deny someone their story. You cannot take that away from them. It’s their truth, it’s their reality.
Statistics are easy to remove ourselves from. A story, you are implicated in, and you have to choose what side you are going to be on.
Patrisse developed Power: From the Mouths of the Occupied in 2015 while she was an Artist in Residence at Kalamazoo College. She was thinking about the impact that Mike Brown’s murder had on Black people in this country, and thought about how no one really talks about state violence and the criminalization Black people face on an everyday basis. Often what hits the media is death, but what about all the Black people who are living? How do we tell the survivor stories? So Power is Black people’s survivor stories of criminalization and state violence. Patrisse has produced and directed shows in Kalamazoo, her hometown of Los Angeles, Seattle, and most recently in Granville, Ohio.
Patrisse brings stories of Black folks directly impacted by state violence to the stage. The multi-media production of POWER utilizes theatre, live instrumentation, and local artists to draw audiences into an experiential narration of the 1951 We Charge Genocide document submitted to United Nations for crimes against Black people in America. The piece asks audiences to unpack the question of how current police state practices across the country reflect genocidal practices named and still relevant in the document. An intergenerational group of Black people perform short monologues based off their personal experience with state violence.
In October of 2016, Patrisse brought Power: From the Mouths of the Occupied to Seattle, a city often referred to as “progressive.” Yirim Seck, Faisal Provincial, KT, Hodan Hassan, Monique Franklin, Akilah Franklin, Jah-Vi’ “SJS” Cotten-Cohia, Luzviminda Uzuri “Lulu” Carpenter, and Marcel Baugh told personal stories highlighting their experiences with local state violence and their resilience as Black people. The cast performed 3 sold-out shows with rave reviews from the media including The Stranger, The Seattle Times, The South Seattle Emerald, and many others.
You have to prove more how terribly racist a place is when it’s calling itself progressive. And with this oppressive identity, Black people have to bear the burden of proof. Wherever Black people are in America, criminalization exists. Wherever there is a white-dominant space, deep racism exists as well—no matter how progressive. If you cut too far into that progressive, if you do something that’s too radical, white racism will emerge.
POWER’S cover art is provided by Damon Davis.