BWW Interview: Poet Jahman Ariel Hill Breaks Down What It Means To Be BLACK ENOUGH at Theatre Downtown
The weekend Theatre Downtown is host to the Southeast premiere of a new show, fresh from a successful off-Broadway workshop. "Black Enough" is a compelling new work staring nationally touring poet Jahman Ariel Hill. It had been reviewed as a journey embracing the positive spirit of being black. Using song, dance, poetry, and humor. Hill dives into topics of childhood, race, gender, and more. America habitually illuminates black citizens only using a negative floodlight. Hill is leading a charge to change the narrative and increase positivity in reflection, and decrease imbedded negative assumptions.
Jahman Ariel Hill is a bright and driven poet with a teaching spirit. He is the Outreach Coordinator for the Alabama Student Association for Poetry and is active on the college lecture circuit teaching poetry. Hill shares about the beginnings of the performance. "As I was trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do for my thesis (He will be receiving MA in Women's Studies this May), I knew that I wanted to create something that exceeded death. I felt that I was being sent messages of Black people and death and I wanted to try and defeat it." After attending a performance of "Random Acts of Flyness" by Terence Nance, Hill was hit with inspiration to create a piece to support and promote black excellence. "I switched the focus from death to what I call the Flourish, the idea that Black people are infinitely possible beings. His vision for the performance holds longevity. He feels the message is applicable to people of all ages. "It is a conversation starter that I feel can be a catalyst for community growth. I would like to see "Black Enough" in schools everywhere. From elementary school to college to even public theatre."
"Black Enough" has been brought to life by a collaborative team of creative students and alumni from the University of Alabama. Directors include Eric Marable, Jr., Alexis Simmons, and Christian Hatcher. Hatcher is a sophomore theater major at the University of Alabama. Hatcher shares how his commitment stemmed from meeting with Jahman last year. "We met up for about five hours last December. Jahman is a legit poet. He brought to the table over 600 poems in that first meeting We just mapped out what we want this thing to be, and what it might also look like. We've been rehearsing and evolving from January."
The premise of "Black Enough" is a black American male trying to understand what his identity is. Hatcher explains. "As you go throughout your entire life as a black male with black people. Society in a way tells you are to do this, that and the other. For example you're supposed to rap. Your pants are supposed to sag and stuff like that. Those are things that I encountered growing up. And then you get to an age you say I'm not doing half of those things. I have an interest in art I have an interest in poetry. I have an interest in many different things." This is not an isolated perception. I have personally encountered the same dilemma my whole life. And I most certainly am not alone! Hatcher explains the uncomfortable feeling being in cultural limbo. "You feel like there is like nowhere for you in society. The feeling is there is nowhere you can be socially excepted because you're either too white for the black kids or too black for the white kids. Our ultimate goal is to change the narrative in society to where we're not looked on as people to be afraid of. We are all our own person. Just please stop freaking out and shooting us!"
Hill hopes people leave the performance moved. "The message of the show is simple: Black people, you are enough. You Flourish. You can be anything and everything no matter what anyone tells you. You are enough and you always have been enough"
If you cant make it to Birmingham. "Black Enough" has two more premieres in Tuscaloosa next week . April 16 and 17 at 5:30pm at the University of Alabama's Allen Bates Theatre.
By Jahman Ariel Hill. Directors Eric Marable, Jr., Alexis Simmons, and Christian Hatcher. Lighting design by Zahrea Small, sound by Imani Williams, and Victoria Hurst. Choreography by Chandler Brown
Birmingham - (ONE NIGHT ONLY) - Sat April 13 - 8pm - $12Theatre Downtown. 2410 5th Ave S, (in Fifth Ave Antiques) Birmingham, AL.
Tickets and more info at www.theatredowntown.org or at (205) 565- 8838
More on Jahman Hill at jahmanhill.com