Maroon Arts brings 'identity and the African-American experience' to the Lincoln stage

Born of an informal group that began staging events to raise funds to present an out-of-town theatrical production, Maroon Arts Group (named for Jamaican Maroon resistance fighters) eventually took on a life of its own, staging “Open Expressions” that feature a combination of spoken word, dance, music and more.

“A lot of what we do focuses on identity and the African-American experience because we suffer from an identity crisis,” co-founder Carnell Willoughby said. “This is an attempt to get at that identity.”

The Maroons, Willoughby said, were determined to maintain their unique culture no matter what, despite having been brought to the Caribbean as slaves. That determination to preserve culture and identity is what moves Maroon Arts Group events, which focus not only on culture and tradition but also on agency and infrastructure.

“Our narrative is sometimes not given by us; the lens is not our lens. We have to reclaim what our culture and traditions are, and it has to be done by us, has to be narrated by us,” Willoughby said.