Celebrating its 50th anniversary with a series of performances throughout the city, around the country and around the world, Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre (NBT) is partnering with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture for “In Perpetual Flight: The Migration of the Black Body” at the Schomburg Center. The 6:30 p.m. event on Tuesday, April 16, is part of Carnegie Hall’s Migrations: The Making of America, a citywide festival featuring events about the journeys of people who have shaped and influenced American culture.
“In Perpetual Flight: The Migration of the Black Body” will examine the movement of the Black body in America and the impact that movement has had on the quest for liberation. NBT has commissioned new, multidisciplinary pieces by theater-makers of African descent. The artists will examine the works of James Baldwin, Harriet Powers, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman and Jacob Lawrence by utilizing the archives of the Schomburg Center to seek to illuminate the complexities Black people have faced migrating to, from, and in America.
The event will explore four distinct time periods that impacted Black bodies in America. NBT CEO Sade Lythcott and NBT Artistic Director Jonathan McCrory will present a dynamic new theatrical work examining the transatlantic and domestic slave trade and runaway journeys of the 1450s to the 1860s, that weaves together runaway slave narratives, slave auction notices, and “information wanted ads” describing lost family members sold during slavery. Award-winning sound designer and musician Justin Hicks has teamed up with Drama Desk-award winning actor and vocalist Kenita R. Miller to create a new song inspired by the wide range of Back-to-Africa movements from 1773 to the 1920s. CBS’ The Good Fight writer and playwright Keith Josef Adkins will write a theatrical monologue analyzing the origins and impact of the Great Migration from 1916 to the 1930s. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer and choreographer Hope Boykin will create a new dance piece that delves into the Civil War era to examine the first northern migration of the 1840s to the 1890s.
“This event is allowing us to acknowledge the consistent flight, movement and navigation Black people have been engaged in within this country ever since the Black body was ripped from the shores of Africa — human bodies stripped from home and forced into slavery,” said McCrory. “That perpetual flight has produced 400 years of migration that have generated moments of agitation, acceleration, acclimation, and aspiration. By viewing history through the lens of those four As, we remember the resilience of the human spirit and the ‘power that is within us,’ as Dr. Teer would say.”
“The archive reverberates when activated by a pursuit of history and truth. We are excited to partner with NBT as we expand the narrative around themes of migration through the impact of chronic flight on Black bodies. ‘In Perpetual Flight’ offers an artistic interpretation of the Schomburg Center’s archive and enjoins the public to find power in movement and remembrance,” said Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture Associate Director of Public Programs and Exhibitions Novella Ford.
Carnegie Hall’s Migrations: The Making of America is a five-week festival of more than 100 events at more than 70 prestigious institutions celebrating the people who built American culture.
Under the theme Liberation: A Journey Beyond Walls and coinciding with its redevelopment, NBT, the oldest continually run Black theater in New York City, is taking it to the streets for its 50th year with a robust season of programming and partnerships that transcends the walls of its building. “In Perpetual Flight” is one of a number of events that NBT has in store for New Yorkers this year.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is located at 515 Malcolm X Boulevard, New York, New York 10037.
Doors open at 6 p.m. Admission to the event is free but RSVP is strongly suggested at schomburgcenter.eventbrite.com.