Multi-disciplinary production addresses ongoing racial inequality

Unfortunately for all of us, there hasn't been a shortage of material from which Gamal Brown can draw inspiration for new work to be added to his Onyx Productions' “The Colored Section” programs.

Fortunately for all of us, “The Colored Section” continues to provide opportunities to understand, address and have important conversations about the kinds of events and decisions and attitudes that continue to happen and be held in our communities today.

“The content originally referred to something from the '50s and '60s and now we're saying, ‘Oh my god, we're still talking about this? Are we still having this discussion about the inequality that's happening in the world?'” Brown said in a recent interview at a King-Lincoln cafe. “So the beautiful thing about [‘The Colored Section'] is it's very organic in how it changes and morphs from one iteration to the next. The sad part is it does so because of things that are affecting us right now.”

Brown weaves dance, drama and spoken-word pieces into cohesive productions that address racial tension, black disenfranchisement and incidents of violence committed against people of color. This fifth iteration of “The Colored Section” (the work premiered in 2012) will include two new works by Alabama-based choreographer and theater artist Danita Jones. Dance pieces will draw from diverse traditions, including ballet, modern, jazz and traditional African.

“I'm in love with the choreo-poem,” Brown said. “My first reaction is movement, but then I begin to pull in writing. That's how I choose to deal with it, when I see these kinds of things happen or hear people say these kinds of things. I say, ‘Let's bring it to the stage.'”

Brown said the dance pieces do not necessarily depict certain occurrences, but rather are inspired by them to then present art that forces reflection. Despite the stark, harsh ideas and notions contained in the pieces, Brown said he's not content to let “The Colored Section” end there.

“We have tears and we have people just totally worn out, but the last piece … my mother always tells me, ‘I need you to have some aspect of hope at the end.' So I choreographed a piece called ‘Deliverance,' with my friends Shelly Ridley-Stewart and Gabby Stefura,” Brown said. “I want people to be challenged and to think about it, but I don't want them to only leave [feeling] sad.”