Medgar Evers College, Saturday, April 23
Theatrical Moves to Manhattan for June 28, 29,30 and July 1 Run
Chad Cooper’s much-anticipated production of Black Lives Matter, Too; All Lives Matter, launched its New York City tour, Saturday, April 22, at 7:00pm at Medgar Evers College, 1650 Bedford Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York. For ticket information, call: 1.888 977.2282 ext.100.
“This drama is for everyone,” says Mr. Cooper. The title is plucked from the headlines; the storyline depicts controversies of today within the timeframe of yesterday, bringing Harriet Tubman, Medgar Evers and Emmett Till to life for the court to assess damages due for crimes committed against them.
In fact, justice is given a front-seat in court as attorneys pursue their notions of due process, a judge balances what should matter and a jury of whites and blacks ponder the value of lives lost and why they will always matter.
Comic relief, particularly in the jury room, and Cooper’s gospel arias performed by his actress/recording artist wife, Alicia Robinson Cooper offer a break in the intensity of Cooper’s thoughts about Black Lives, All Lives and the specters of recent victims of injustice, like Eric Garner who is mentioned in the script.
Mr. Cooper’s promotional notes declare, “It’s more than a play, it’s a movement.” Which suggests to this writer that Mr. Cooper can easily exchange these characters for others in our troubled history keeping the same courtroom. “As long as there are injustices to human rights and lives are reduced to insignificance, justice will always be on trial,” said one actor.
Following are excerpts of writer Margo McKenzie’s interview last Saturday with Chad Cooper. There will be more on this important play as it moves to Manhattan in June.
Margot McKenzie/OTP: You plucked the title, Black Lives Matter, from the newspaper headlines. So, what’s the message you want to get across with the couching of Black Lives Matter in the context of some powerful, historical moments in black history?
Chad Cooper: I was inspired to write “Black Lives Matter, Too” as I sat in a Cracker Barrel Restaurant in the Richmond, Virginia area and I learned that a young man had been gunned down as he sat in a car with his wife and child. I had heard of several incidents like that before, but this one made me cry. Then I thought about all of the marches we’ve watched for year. I think everything has its season, I know, but as I was sitting there in tears I believe God spoke to me and said, “You have to do something. The way that you can do it, is through the arts, something to motivate, educate and rejuvenate people.
Sitting there in Cracker Barrel, I came up with the idea of a play centered around reparations for Black people and how that’s a subject we can address everything around.
The play is a mechanism through which we can address social injustice and bring out the truth. We as a people, were brought over here. We didn’t volunteer. This country was built on free labor, our ancestors labor, over hundreds of years. We were treated like animals in a country that accumulated wealth, and a net worth of billions of dollars. We get nothing. Not even respect.
So that was my inspiration: The injustices must be addressed, and I think that’s what this play does.
MM: Are you sending a message through this play to some of the politicians, the people who could make reparations come to a reality?
CC: Absolutely. Where we may not get these 6.4 trillion dollars that’s calculated in the play, something needs to be done: it could be free schooling for African Americans. Who did more for America than us? We’re also talking about having real conversation between white and black people. The jury deliberation does that. IT gives a vivid you know, outlook on how, as I see it, black people and white people really think about each other.
MM: Now from a biblical sense, okay so now in this you have black lives matter, all lives matter. From a biblical sense, should it be the reverse?
CC: Well, not necessarily. The reason we say Black Lives Matter, Too is because every other life, nationality, has been appreciated and readily given reparations and respect
MM: Most of your plays have a Biblical context. This play is a departure from that Is “Black Lives Matter, Too” a turning point in your vision as to what you should be doing with your art?
CC I think so. The others were geared more toward the church world and this is geared to everybody. I directed for the church. The “Family Mess” play still even though it’s not is necessarily a church play. It’s my story. We can’t “Black Lives Matter, Too” in a box, either. It’s a Christian play, it’s a Muslim play, it’s an atheist play, its everybody’s play because everybody who’s of African descent fits into it.
MM: You did this without any other investors, any financial support? Did you do like Spike Lee did with his credit card?
CC: Absolutely. My background is advertising and marketing. So, when I came over into this arena, God gave me a very good marketing plan. Being a national recording artist and helping to partner with a lot of churches and also being a pastor helped. In some cities, we’d get 500 tickets in a day just by doing guest appearances at churches. I have been able to survive out here over 12 years and going out to over 160 cities and pack out audiences.
To be able to come to New York, put together a full cast in record time and perform before SRO audiences without doing one radio spot is a success.
MM: That’s today. What does success look like tomorrow?
CC: Doing films, less traveling, and being more commercialized with productions like Black Lives Matter, Too, that attract all audiences.
MM: As a pastor your mission is to save souls. What’s your mission now?
CC: It’s still to save souls.