Custom Search 1

Black history revisited in new play

CREATOR: 'The Voices of Black Folk' is directed by Khareem Jamal (right)

“WITH BLACK History Month, I think there should be more of a focus on the history. I find that there’s a lot more fashion shows, events and stuff like that, but its called Black History Month for a reason.”

Those were the words of Khareem Jamal, the man behind 'The Voices of Black Folk' – a series of monologues recounting the lives of four black heroes: Harriet Tubman, David Walker, Bessie Coleman and Joseph Bologne.

For Jamal – a teacher of black history – his decision to get into theatre and explore the lives of these black revolutionists was a natural and organic one. “I wasn’t brought up in a theatrical background, but this was a natural progression for me and a means to teach history in another way.”

“I teach black history - I call it Africology - and I realised that sometimes people can’t take a lecture or sit in a classroom to learn. So a really good way to teach history is through drama and entertainment, and this play is really an extension of what I already do.”

Teaching black history through drama has proved successful for Jamal, as 'The Voices of Black Folk' is back for a second run following its debut in 2016. Since its inception, the play has included a few amendments, including the addition of a new black hero to the stage.

For tickets and more information, click here.

“Now we’ve included Bessie Coleman, who’s a great addition to The Voices of Black Folk,” says Jamal. “To be honest, I could have closed my eyes and picked any four black heroes, but I was excited to hone in on these four in particular.”

“David Walker is someone people don’t really know much about, so I was happy to bring him to the forefront. Then you have Harriet Tubman and Bessie Coleman who are quite well known names but people don’t necessarily know their full stories. And finally, Joseph Bologne – a fascinating character from 17th century France.”

“All the individuals are quite fascinating in their own right, and their stories need to be told – but there are hundreds of others, equally important.”

While the four black heroes have individual stories, there is a synergy between them as they share a common theme of overcoming adversity – a key aspect to the play which Jamal hopes people can relate too.

“These are individual monologues, so you don’t have a lot of distractions on the stage. You just see the character in their costume and emotively tell their story, so it’s quite deep,” he reveals.

“The stories are quite fascinating and we tend to get a responses from the audience as they see themselves in these characters, therefore understanding the experience.”

For tickets and more information, click here.

Watching 'The Voices of Black Folk' is certainly an emotive experience – and fitting given that its Black History Month. However, Jamal stands strong in his belief that while the month can have its benefits, it’s definitely not enough.

He said: “A month is definitely not enough. I don’t subscribe to the one-month concept as I do workshops all year round teaching Africology and it’s apart of my daily life. “

“When Black History Month started in America in 1926, we could see the reason why it was only given a month,” claims Jamal. “But we are now in 2017, and we should be teaching this everyday in every month of the year. But we use Black History Month, as it’s the most fertile period to launch something and get people to listen.”

Jamal’s dedication to black history and black culture is evident throughout his work and approach to not just history but everyday life. “Africology isn’t just history, its about social empowerment, economics, all the things that affects us today. History on its own is not going to do very much for people living today but it will make you understand the mechanism that people in the past have used to put us in the position we’re in today, which is crucial.”

'The Voices of Black Folk' aims to do just that. Through reflecting the past, it tells viewers how far black people have come and just how far they can go.

“What these characters have in similarity with one another is the courage to overcome circumstances they were born into. So by doing this, we can show people that where you start doesn’t determine who you’ll become, and we can change that.”

For tickets and more information, click here.

The Voice is celebrating its 35th birthday this year. Share your Voice memories, comments and birthday wishes on social media, using the following hash tag: #Voice35Years

Read every story in our hardcopy newspaper for free by downloading the app.

Facebook Comments