"Blood at the Root," written by Dominique Morisseau, is a theater representation of a group of students who react to a notice of nooses being hung from a famous tree planted in their schoolyard and how that relates to racial problems in the south and also discusses another major social problem, homophobia after an attempted murder to a transferred homosexual student.   

“Blood at the Root:” A review and response

"Blood at the Root" came to the York Arena Theatre this past weekend and tackled a variety of social issues including racism and homophobia

After viewing the play, the first thing I was attracted to was the idea of being intimate with the play itself. The performance takes place in an area where there’s no real stage, the audience sits in the performance. The play is much more interactive and makes the viewer become part of the presentation itself.

 We are first presented by the main female character, Raylynn, who is a young African American woman with a white best friend, Asha, and an older brother, De’andre. Asha is, in my opinion, a very important character in regards to the idea of “acting black,” an issue that spins around the African American community. 

The character displays small African American style types such as laid edges and hoop earrings. She has a passionate, sassy tone of voice that would be stereotyped as a black woman tone. She displays this because she has a history of a blended family with other African Americans and “felt at home”. With this, she has a hard time at first understanding the real problems that American Americans have and seeing that it wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, but discrimination and bigotry for the color of their skin. She comes to understand how African Americans can not just take off the image and hide, unlike her, being a white female. Sharyena Hunt, does an amazing job displaying that perception. 

Raylynn discussed how she wanted to run as the first black female president of her school. With that, it is very clear that this is the time that racism was very likely on the school grounds, as it also opens up to a scene outside, where a white majority, popular group of students sit under a famous tree planted at the school grounds, and how it is almost impossible for a black student to sit under that tree as if it was claimed. 

With that, we become introduced to the school newspaper that is run by two seniors, Toria and Justin. Justin’s character is the “coon” or “oreo” of the school as his point of view seems out of place in the black community, when it is truly based around independence from everyone due to displacement. I connected personally with this character because I know what it feels like to have been called a “proper black” because I do not fit into black stereotypes and therefore considering me “trying to be white.” 

Delanti Hall, who played Justin, explained that it was very important to be that character to show that no matter what type of black you are, you are still black regardless. I find that extremely powerful. I also find it powerful how Toria, played by Molly Jass, did an amazing job of displaying activism for African American equality in schooling and in general as a white woman. The actress grew up in an area where she was not exposed to racism, and stated that she was presented with images of actual lynchings of African Americans and how she used that to help bring out her character. As a young journalist, her character has a lot of passion and power for the issues that were set in just her school. 

Soon, Raylynn is introduced to the transfer student, Colin, who becomes the quarterback of the school football team shortly after transferring. We soon figure out, after a very embarrassing moment between Raylynn and Colin where Raylynn assumes that he likes her, that Colin is a gay man and had issues with that in his old school. This plot twist made a whole new turn in the idea of oppression and how it’s more than a race thing. Soon after, Colin and De’andre get into a fight, leading Colin to the hospital and De’andre to jail. 

This is where it gets powerful and externally relevant to the whole point of the play. In the play, it is discussed that everything has roots. Whatever kind of oppression it is, there are roots. So when Raylynn, played by Chole Davis, says that even though Colin experienced just as much discrimination as her brother during the fight, there is no way that he should be behind bars and that Colin’s karma of calling De’andre a racial slur after he called him a homophobic slur was a healable bruise and is not equivalent to her brothers future being taken away, it is a racial issue as much as it is a homophobia issue and that there should be equal karma. The only thing De’andre should worry about is how to heal up the same amount of scars Colin has. There is equality in the crime. Colin reacts by dropping the charges against De’andre, seeing that there is an equal aura and that it would be better to rip the roots altogether, then allowing them to grow more.

Homophobia and racism, like them, have equal oppression and discrimination, but when looking at oppression as a whole what is the first thing you would think of? The answer is racism. Why? Because when you think of oppression you think of something that can be easily broken down and put back together over and over in different ways. If you set an African American and a homosexual in the same room and they say “I am oppressed” it is more likely that the attention will go towards the African-American rather than the homosexual, this could be because when you think of oppression, it is easier to understand racism due to its idea of people being more educated on the issue that is racism whether than, as of homosexuality and the LGBTQIA+ community, seem to have as more organic issues and is assumed to have a collection of more idea on the community to the point where point of debates and arguments becomes harder and harder to back up. It is simple to say that it’s hard to really back up the LGBTQIA+ community because most don’t really understand what they are backing up, whereas the African American community seems to have a more structured information base when lets us be honest, they are both continuing to have more unrevealed and hidden things in both movements. 

As previously stated, Justin constantly persisted to tell Toria to operate within the guidelines of the school newspaper. He persisted to ingrain in her that her ground-breaking stories would go against “his layout”and were too big for the paper. When she proposed her many ideas like an article that highlighted the best birth-control for students he shut them down. He believed that there was only so much they could do as a high-school publication. I believe he was wrong. A platform no matter how great or small is a platform. I believe he was wrong in his rhetoric to sway Toria in the wrong direction and believing her story did not matter. As journalists, it is important for us to know that we are the source of news universally. No matter how big or small the news is, as long as it is accurate and credible it will always be important. In terms of publications who are run under a board of directors it's important for us to advocate for one another in the event that an idea or story gets pushed because it is “too much” for a school paper. The most ground-breaking and revolutionary stories are often the most important and the ones that need to be heard. If we don’t put out stories that people need to hear they will never be exposed to them. 

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