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Theatre Arts Department’s ‘Junkanoo’ Is Not Just Another Slave Story

By: Jalen Brown, Staff Reporter

Junkanoo is a celebratory masquerade that takes place across the Bahamas every December. The festival dates back hundreds of years, and while its origins are hotly debated, most will agree that it began as a slave celebration on one of their few holidays of the year.

The play by the same name, written by Mark Williams, is a story about the Rose and the Bush Plantation, and how some of the enslaved are using the Junkanoo celebration to rescue their people and escape their bondage.

Nicole Brewer is a Howard University professor and the Director of Junkanoo. She is the creator of the Cross-Cultural Collaborative Curriculum, a program that came from her observations of what was lacking in the Theatre Arts Department. and how they dealt with the African Diaspora.

“We used to only center African-Americans, or we’d only focus on Africa as a continent,” said Professor Brewer. “We would completely ignore our ancestors that landed in South America and Central America.”

The Theatre Arts Department does not want Junkanoo to be seen as “just another slave story.” This is a story of who the African people are, in the context of slavery and in the context of humanity. This is a story of what was taken from the African people—and how, through the theft of their physical freedom, they found a consciousness that could never be chained. This is also a story of reflection; it is how we as African-Americans have retrieved what was taken from our ancestors, and how we have developed from our generational trauma.

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“From my character’s perspective, Junkanoo is the time of spiritual awareness,” said Toni Byrd, sophomore acting major from. “It’s a celebration of knowing those spirits and allowing them to come into our lives and guide us.”

Make your calendars to go see Junkanoo Oct. 3-6 and Oct. 10-13. Showtimes are 8 p.m. on weekdays, 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

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