Black-Latino relations in the U.S. are complicated. While our communities, which often parallel one another in culture, have similarities, man-made barriers, competition for jobs and socio-economic concerns have caused tension between both groups. Despite the tension, beauty has been birthed from the relationship.
Inspired by Black and Latino relations, recent UT graduate and author of the blog Black Girl, Latin World Jelisa Jay Robinson created The Stories of Us. Described as a scrapbook of experiences, histories and feelings, “the play uses a variety of performance styles to explore the histories behind Afro-Latinidad while addressing how past interactions between the two separate cultures have impacted their current relationship as a community.” Presented by Teatro Vivo, the website reads:
“In an effort to unite both groups, The Stories of Us details experiences of discrimination that many still currently face and uses those observations to open a rich dialogue about the importance of acceptance, solidarity, and love.”
Robinson’s upbringing inspired The Stories of Us. Growing up Black and being involved in the Latinx community, she wanted to hear the stories of Afro-Latinx histories and African Americans who connected with the Latinx community. “I wanted a space where looking like me and speaking Spanish was represented,” says Robinson. “A space where our connections to each other were recognized dissected and discussed. That’s where The Stories of Us emerged. Out of necessity. Out of love.”
The Stories of Us is directed by Florinda Bryant, a proud Black Mexicana. The femcee, poet, singer, dancer, actress, director and mother calls the stage “home” and is known to create work that lives between genres. Bryant and Teatro Vivo co-founder Rupert Reyes were drawn to The Stories of Us and felt, politically and socially, the piece needed to come to life now.
“I hope people think enough to engage in conversation,” says Bryant on The Stories of Us. “I hope people have a moment to think about a new feeling, or an idea, when it comes to racism and internalized racism.”
“This is our first production that looks at Afro-Latinidad. We have presented other plays that spoke about racism within our own community. This play has much more depth and insight into the Afro-Latino experience,” said Reyes on the website. “The conversation that explores the similarities between Blacks and Latinos needs to begin or continue. I don’t know what the forces are at play that divides us. I do know that we can be one of the forces that unite us. We hope that all of our plays create a movement for more unity on the community level, the local level.”
Teatro Vivo is dedicated to producing quality bilingual theater accessible to all theater audiences and artists. Stories of Us is playing Thursdays – Sundays, through May 8, 2016 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St, Austin, TX 78701). Click here to purchase your tickets ($12-$20)!