In celebration of Black History Month, staged readings of The (M)others will take place on three separate days in Sarasota. The project explores four mothers who have each lost a child to police violence. Although this play explores different narratives, the initial project came about when its creator, Dr. Nikki Yeboah, first moved to the United States.
"The international narrative about the U.S. is about the issue of race and police violence," Yeboah says. "Around the world, people are interested, and dismayed, by what’s happening here."
After accepting a position at San Jose State University as an assistant professor in the Communications Studies Department, the self-proclaimed artist-scholar realized that California was one of the leaders in instances of African-Americans killed while in police custody. She also realized that the students she worked with had no idea.
"They thought that those issues were happening out there, as opposed to where they live," Yeboah says. "Of course, I had done the research and knew that where we lived was one of the deadliest places in the U.S."
Yeboah wanted to find speakers she could bring to the university to talk about local instances of police brutality. What she found instead was a network of mothers whose children had all been killed while in police custody. These mothers had formed a community to help one another.
"As soon as a story breaks out, people will reach out to the family to offer support," Yeboah says. "These instances are so traumatic that it can tear a nuclear family apart."
Yeboah began to transcribe the interviews she did with these mothers, weaving their experiences into a singular narrative that discusses loss, motherhood and violence. These stories are presented in what is referred to as documentary-theater, where real-life narratives come to life on the stage.
"There is no storyline that you would see in a regular play; it's an assemblage of their narratives," Yeboah says. "You are with these families, from the birth of this child to the passing of this child."
Yeboah hopes that Sarasotans will draw inspiration from the performance to examine what rates of police brutality look like in their communities.
"I want people to understand how immediate this is," Yeboah says. "When people watch things on the news, there is a sense of distance, that it’s happening out there. You start to understand that the danger isn’t isolated, and you start to see yourself and how you fit in."
The (M)others will take place from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15; from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 16; and from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 17. Click here for more info.