Bradenton Middle school students will bring racism to the front and center during a “docu-drama” performance Tuesday evening at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.
The project is the brainchild of Gabriel Ortiz, the assistant director at Oasis Middle School, a charter school in Bradenton. About three years ago, Ortiz read an article that said the up-and-coming generation — the ones he worked with every day — were a post-racial generation. That didn’t fit with what he was seeing. He sent his students out, who are now seniors in high school, to interview others of their generation about whether racism was still alive and thriving in society.
This year, he’s reviving the project and his current crop of students will perform TAKE! On Racism, a two-act piece at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Even three years later, the instances of racism the students are acting out are things they students say they’ve heard about or witnessed themselves.
“It’s not direct now, it’s in the forming of joking,” 15-year-old Jaquisha Barnes said about racism. “It is still racist.”
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People try to sugarcoat racism now, so it doesn’t seem as bad, added 14-year-old Angelina Vela.
“They’re hiding what’s in their heart by trying to sugarcoat it,” she said.
The first act of the performance is meant to show everyday racism acts, with the students self-segregating at school dances, and making fun of the different racial stereotypes. Then the performance shifts and the students get into some “real talk” about how racism hurts others and what people can do about it.
One of the simplest answers? Education, said 13-year-old Elizabeth LaDuke.
“We’re all people inside,” she said. “With education, racism can go down.”
The students also suggested that people challenge instance of racism when they see it. They shouldn’t let racist jokes go by without making a comment or pointing out the racism.
“We need to send a message through to everyone,” said 14-year-old Sayra Lopez.
Fourteen-year-old Serena Corona hopes that people who see the performance walk away with a sense of truth.
“It’s exactly how you see a lot of people act now,” she said. “They just don’t realize it’s racist.”
If you go
What: Oasis Middle School students present TAKE! On Racism, a docu-drama about how racism persists in today’s society.
When: Tuesday, June 7. Performances at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Where: Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, 1646 10th Way, Sarasota.
How much: $5 for the afternoon and $10 for the evening show.