TOC Kids interviews performer-poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Over at Time Out Chicago Kids, there’s a wide-ranging, Leap Day interview with Marc Bamuthi Joseph, whose red, black and GREEN: a blues hits the MCA Stage April 12–14. The work, made in collaboration with artist Theaster Gates, takes its inspiration from Life Is Living youth festivals for environmental awareness Joseph organized in four cities: Chicago, Houston, New York and Oakland.
Chicago’s eco-fest, held in Uptown’s Clarendon Park, changed the project’s model on a fundamental level. Joseph explains: “In Chicago in 2009, there were record numbers of public schoolchildren that were murdered. So, here, it made more sense to focus not on ‘green’ as the central codifier of environmental literacy, but on life. The module was, ‘if you’re brown you can’t go green until you hold a respect for black life.’ …Instead of doing all the programming [for Life Is Living], we relied on community partners to take over and to demonstrate to one another what it meant to work in-ecosystem. Which tied a certain level of diversity to the environmental question, beyond play-back theater about the environment, beyond issuing water bottles. There was a free-breakfast program and we planted trees on that day. But there was also a soccer tournament and a skate park. Action, sports, politics, youth work, sustainable food, along with all of these performance aesthetics: All of that really focused here [in Chicago].”
Before the final MCA show, during an afternoon event called SHareOUT, the moving set designed by Gates for a blues becomes the domain of six local youth groups for creative expression: Kuumba Lynx, YOUmedia, Young Chicago Authors, the MCA’s Creative Agency and the Better Boys Foundation’s LAB programs for filmmaking and community gardening.
While a blues isn’t geared specifically toward kids, previous shows in other cities have brought “little kids, five- to 10-year-olds, lots of high-school kids and college kids,” Joseph says. “It’s also, for me, the most sophisticated thing that I’ve done, I feel.”