Poetry, Plays Kick Off Bowdoin’s Black History Month


Video by Busra Eriz ’17

Black History Month was launched at Bowdoin last week with a celebration, a poetry performance and an exhibition in Smith Union. A couple days later, students performed a series of short plays addressing Trayvon Martin’s death.

A number of other events will take place over the month, including a talk by Bowdoin’s MLK Jr. keynote lecturer, Rev. Dr. Emilie Townes, a pioneering scholar in womanist theology. She will speak at the Feb. 27 Common Hour.

At the Tuesday evening kick-off event, poet Esther Nunoo ’17 performed, and students checked out old Bowdoin Afro-American Society posters that had been framed for display in the Blue Gallery.

One of the event’s organizers, Symone Howard ’15, said she had found the posters in Russwurm last semester in a file cabinet. “Most of them are from the ’70s and ’80s and are quite fragile,” she said. They provide a unqiue glimpse into Bowdoin’s past.

“Facing Our Truth: 10-minute Plays About Trayvon, Race and Privilege”

By Aviva Mattingly ’15


After the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner last year, Assistant Professor of Theater Abigail Killeen was one faculty member who wanted to help the Bowdoin community process recent events. “I, like many others, felt compelled to help make a space where people could talk and listen to each other,” Killeen told The Bowdoin Orient. She added, “I want to generate theater that can serve as an agent of change in a positive way.”

With help from students Ashley Bomboka ’16, Hilda Njanike ’17, James Jelin ’16, Amanda Perkins ’18 and Amanda Spiller ’17, Killeen directed the production of “Facing Our Truth,” a series of plays written in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal in Trayvon Martin’s shooting. The short plays, written by six playwrights, were commissioned by the New Black Fest.

The plays were performed as a series, and they were staged in different locations on campus — Quinby House, Chase Barn and the Russwurm African American Center. The event was intentionally segmented so that students and faculty had the opportunity to silently reflect on each play as they walked between buildings.

Olivia Bean ’17, one of the 17 actors, said she was excited by the turnout for the event, and that she enjoyed seeing students actors who aren’t regulars in Bowdoin’s theater productions.

The event attracted not only a wide array of students, but also several faculty members. The performances culminated in a moderated discussion in Russwurm.

Warmed by hot chocolate and cookies, a circle of students used this time to participate in an open discussion with guidelines provided by Killeen, such as respecting others and suspending judgment.

Victoria Pitaktong ’17 said she wants people in the community to feel okay about having conflicting perspectives and to voice their thoughts without fear.

Kiki Nakamura-Koyana ’17, another of the performers, said she thought that uncomfortable dialogue can help catalyze transformation. “We need a situation that is uncomfortable enough to bring about change,” she observed.

The project was funded by The Bowdoin Student Government’s Good Ideas Fund. Performing in the plays were Olivia Bean ’17, Rickey Larke ’15, Claudia Villar-Leeman ’15, Michelle Kruk ’16, Preston Thomas ’17, Osa Omoregie ’18, Arhea Marshall ’15, Amanda Spiller ’17, Nick Funnell ’17, Hassaan Mirza ’17, Jae-Yeon Yoo ’18, Emiley Charley ’17, Winston Antoine ’16, Kiki Nakamura-Koyama ’17, Madeleine Livingston ’16, Lizzy Takyi ’17, and Marina Affo ’17. Associate Dean of Multicultural Student Programs Leana Amaez and Associate Professor of Education Doris Santoro assisted with the event.

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