Scottsboro Boys: Black Eye For Black-face Minstrel

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“We closed the Scottsboro Boys show down in December and we will do it again," said Freedom Party member Kamau Brown.

[Theater of the Absurd]

While masses of celebrity gawkers gathered at the 65th Annual Tony Awards Celebration at the Beacon Theatre, a large contingent of the Freedom Party stormed the scene in this past weekend protest.

The demonstration targeted the Scottsboro Boys Minstrel show which was nominated for 12 awards. The musical depicts the racist travesty that ruined the lives of nine Black boys who were falsely accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931 and spent many years in prison. The play was framed in full minstrel context. Black men in black-face grease paint, grinning and dancing around the electric chair, Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo, and a White Interlocutor running the show.

Contemporary audiences, particularly conscious Black folks were appalled.

When the show ran in New York, the Freedom Party began a protest campaign in front of the Lyceum Theater. Within a month attendance fell significantly and the show lost over $5 million dollars. The Scottsboro Boys Minstrel closed on December 12, 2010 after only 49 performances.

The protesters were led by Omowale Clay a Freedom Party Coordinator, who said, “We will not tolerate the denigration of our history and the disrespect of the victims of the racist judicial system in this country that is still in full effect. The Central Park 5 are the modern day Scottsboro Boys. It's not a minstrel show, racism is real.”

The reference was to the five young African American teenagers falsely accused of raping a White investment banker jogging in Central Park in 1989.

This past weekend, protesters marched through the crowd with large signs “Broadway's Scottsboro Boys is Racist” and “Scottsboro Boys Aint No Minstrel Show.” Councilman Charles Barron and Assemblywoman Inez Barron were among the throng as they chanted slogans calling attention to the politics of the Tony Awards. They ended the march at the front door of the Beacon Theatre as the startled tuxedoed and gowned theater tribe entered.

Police presence increased significantly shortly after. They tried to get the protesters to move a block away, to no avail. They were not having it. Roger Wareham, an attorney, and Freedom Party Co Chair Viola Plummer informed the police of their democratic rights and they stood their ground. The stand off quickly dissolved and the police were ordered to stand down.

“We closed the Scottsboro Boys show down in December and we will do it again," said Freedom Party member Kamau Brown. "They will never come back to Broadway without a serious fight. We will certainly contact our people across the country and encourage them to protest this racist show wherever it goes. You better believe it. We never give up.” 

The Scottsboro Boys Minstrel left the Tony Awards empty-handed. Not one nomination garnered an award. Their revival effort was DOA.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."


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