Theater, dance and music come together to battle social injustice Friday in a performance of “The Colored Section.”
Every other year, the Van Fleet Theater at the Columbus Performing Arts Center hosts a choreopoem written and produced by Gamal Brown.
Brown said that the similarities between the elements of the ’50s and ’60s that he portrays in this event and the issues of today are shocking. He said that discrimination is still happening and warrants conversation.
“[The Colored Section] blends music, it blends dancing, drama, of course theater, poetry,” Brown said. “All of the sudden there’s this movement… It is a glimpse during a period of, in these Americas, a time that was just not very kind. The hard part about that, it looks like now.”
Brown was inspired to pursue dance as a form of activism after studying under Jawole Zollar of the Urban Bush Women dance company in Brooklyn, New York, in 2000. Brown, along with others within the company, were tasked by Zollar to go back into their communities and use dance as a platform to stage opportunities for growth.
This year will be the fifth iteration of “The Colored Section,” and Brown said he is always changing elements of the performance. Three new pieces have been added, one being the story of Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo.
Liuzzo was a white woman and civil-rights activist from Detroit who was murdered by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1965 after shuttling fellow activists to a Montgomery airport in Alabama.
“Our advocates, black people advocates, we’re all not black,” Brown said. “We don’t want to be victims, but we also need to understand that there were more people who had an interest in what was equitable, what was right, what was socially just.”
Patrice Newtown, the production manager, explained that “The Colored Section” takes its audience through the history of African-Americans and brings it full circle to present day. She said it’s a beautiful story that isn’t all doom and gloom, with some hopeful and inspiring pieces intermixed throughout the performance.
“It ties those [elements] in, glues those in, so that you can see the history of where we come from as African-Americans, as black people, that struggle, but also that vitality that we have,” Newton said.
Brown and Newton both described “The Colored Section” as not a typical performance, but a form of activism where audience members are going to leave with something inside of them that will inspire them to do better and be better.
“I hope it starts a conversation. I hope that there isn’t anyone who comes and is not moved by this piece. I hope it just sparks change, even if it’s just here in Columbus, Ohio,” Newton said. “I hope a little bit of everyone comes to see the show. If the audience isn’t willing to take that next step, it dies.”
“The Colored Section” will be performed at the Van Fleet Theater at 549 Franklin Ave. at 7 p.m. Friday. Admission is $20.