Rolling Out

Messiah Equiano’s new play ‘Man Law’ opens dialogue on police brutality

Messiah Equiano
Photo credit: Tony Binns for Steed Media Service

Messiah Equiano, the playwright who brought Chicago, The Penis Monologues, brings his new play Man Law to the DuSable Museum.  Ripped straight out of the headlines from newspapers across the United States, Man Law examines the toll racism and stereotyping have on communities — both Black and White.

How does the play address the circumstances presently going on in the African American community?

The production features the story of a young adult African American male who finds himself caught between living a righteous life or one that is filled with violence. The play examines some of the reasons African Americans commit crimes against other races and other African Americans. The production dives into some of the various destructive practices African Americans engage in. Perhaps if we’re able to see the ugly truth regarding some of these matters, in an artistic manner, perhaps we can see the error in ourselves and go about correcting it. Chicago police officers will be present for the production and afterward we will hold a café in which officers will speak with community members to establish ways to rectify some of the issues we face as a collective community.

How are you preparing for the play?

Due to the timing and climate of the times, we are sensitive to both the police department and the community. We have been “popping up” in neighborhoods where crime has run rampant. At these pop-ups, residents of these communities can come and enjoy: live performances of snippets of the play, singing, great food and lots of fun! Community members and police officers can interact and get to know one another. In addition to this, my actors and I have been rehearsing for several weeks. We are promoting the production via radio, TV, social media, text and email blast and person to person interaction.

What did you base the play on? And as a Black man have you personally experienced racial profiling?

The play was based on the idea that if both civilians and police officers understood each other more, perhaps they would be able to get along better than we have in previous years. Tension between the communities and the police departments around the country are at an all-time high and I felt presenting a play, written in this manner, could at least open the dialogue between the two factions in a manner that hasn’t been explored in recent years.

Yes, I have experienced racial profiling. On countless occasions. However, instead of holding a grudge about it, I’ve decided to do something productive with that energy to play my part in eradicating racial profiling altogether.

What are your thoughts on Black Lives Matter?

I love Black Lives Matter. I feel it’s a relevant and necessary movement considering the occurrences that have transpired the past few years. I am an avid believer that ALL lives matter equally. African Americans to Caucasian police officers. Human beings to animals. Dogs to cats. Trees to fish. All lives matter and the sooner we all recognize that, the faster all of us can truly co-exist in the love and peace we were made to co-exist in.

Man Law will run one afternoon performance at 3 p.m. at the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th St., on July 24, 2016. Please visit MANLAWCHI. EVENTBRITE.COM for tickets.  For more information, please call 815-669-0224.

There will be a cafe conversation consisting of police officers and civilians after the show. Food and beverages will be provided.

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