By Holli Harms
Imagine having your life, your very existence under a constant microscope simply because the person you are partnered with is of another culture? Cultures of different colors where the two of you stand out in every crowd. Where you have to explain to family and friends and sometimes strangers why you are with the person you are with AND you have to explain to that person again and again how you live your life and who you are. Your hair! You have to explain your hair. As one of the characters in Somebody Jones’ striking and must-see Black Women Dating White Men part of 59E59 Theaters East to Edinburgh Virtual productions says, “I get tired of explaining.”
The performance opens with a quote from Tonya Ingram, “ To be in a love during a time of injustice is a revolutionary act.” These women are performing their own revolutionary acts in a time when we are looking clearly at the constant injustices brought on simply by the color of a person’s skin.
In several Zoom gatherings, five young black women interweave words that talk, discuss, instruct, bitch, bemoan, and joke all over wine, over water, over days, about how it is to be in a biracial relationship. We hear how their fathers felt about them dating men who were white, one asking, “Are you OKAY with mixing paints?” Father’s who carry the weight of fear of growing up in the deep racial divides of Mississippi. Who say things like, “This white boy is just a phase.” Their fears and feelings of being discarded are palpable. They feel their daughters are discarding, disrespecting their own people, their own color. All pain for a father.
The women are trying to find a balance in a life where they and their partner did not have the slightest resemblance of a shared childhood and so they must continuously explain the differences. Explain what it means to be a person of color in this world? How they were raised to keep an eye on their surroundings.
One of the women talks about being an activist for the black community and the paradox of her work for her community and her life married to a white man. Is she a fraud? Has she betrayed her community? There is the constant question, “Why do I have to fight to prove my blackness?”
They have to live with their eyes wide open and what Ms. Jones is doing with her play is opening our eyes to how it is to live as a person of color. What considerations must be addressed each day? Each hour? Each minute? Having to explain who you are and how different your experience is when looking at an apartment as a single black woman and then viewing the same apartment with your white husband in tow. How perceptions change with the tone of one’s skin. The anxiety of identity.
This is all laid out before us by the author and performers as a fun night out (Zoom night out) with friends. The performers are so relaxed, so “on their game” it feels as if they are improvising on the spot. The dialogue is written so natural and immediate we do not feel like we are viewing a theatrical piece but have Zoombombed a group of friends. Friends we want to get to know and understand and show them we care. Khadifa Wong’s direction is choreography, and the dance of words has us jumping from one day to the next and then back again.
It’s an important piece and will have you looking at your own prejudices and expectations. Understanding who you are in the world, and how you judge and perceive others. And you will do all this while laughing and listening and maybe even enjoying a glass of wine.
BLACK WOMEN DATING WHITE MEN written by Somebody Jones, Directed by Khadifa Wong
Produced by Somebody Jones & Khadifa Wong
Running Time: 40 minutes
The 2021 curated line-up, which features nine shows, begins streaming on July 15 for a limited engagement through July 25. The shows are available on-demand at the 59E59 Theaters website. The $20 ($18 for 59E59 Members) festival pass gives one household access to all nine shows. The pass, which is available now, can be purchased via www.59e59.org.