A local hip-hop musical which focuses on the growing crises of black male mass incarceration and the American criminal justice system headed to the West Coast over the weekend.
“The Last Jimmy” musical opened at the Los Angeles Grand Performances Theater to an audience of more than 2,500 people . The event was part of the Los Angeles Aftershock Series, which focuses on the cultural aftermath of the 1965 and 1992 riots, and illustrates how music and dialogue help to address racism both locally and nationally, according to organizers.
“This was a powerful play in many ways. For one, last night it marked the one year anniversary of Eric Garner’s death. Since then we have seen several African-American men and women die at the hands of the police and not get prosecuted,” said Gerado Abajo.
In March, the Philadelphia Anti-Drug/Anti-Violence Network (PAAN) partnered with the producers of the musical, Raw Life/Sling and Stone Productions, to present a free matinee to more than 300 youth partners and families at the Prince Theater in Philadelphia.
The poignant and contemporary musical takes its audience down the plight of the court and prison system though the experience of young black males. The objective, according to music director and Philadelphia native Karl “Dice Raw” Jenkins from the Legendary Roots Crew, is to transform the thinking and self-perception of young men and women in our inner city and within the hip-hop culture.
“I think hip-hop’s problem is that a lot of these rappers make light of incarceration, of being locked up, and they have never been locked up. They make light of selling drugs or selling handguns or living a certain kind of life they have only seen in the movies. But when it is projected, and you are using that, saying ‘This is why I’m successful’, when children see that, they look on TV and think that is the key to success,” said Jenkins.
The collaboration of artists who are also part of the creative team include award winning choreographer and founder of the Pure Movement Dance Company, Renee Harris; nationally and internationally acclaimed award winning director and Freedom Theater Interim Artistic Director, Ozzie Jones; and Disney, Black Entertainment Television (BET) writer and The Shipley School Theater Director, Phillip Brown. A host of local actors, singers, and musicians also round out the talented cast.
Jenkins says The Last Jimmy not only raises awareness around mass incarceration but connects people and families who have been affected to various resources.
“The main thing I want people to get from the play is a call to action and to wake up anyone who doesn’t know what is going on about mass incarcerations, privatized prisons or how hard it is for these street experts to get reentry into society. I want them to take away a sense of urgency to do something when they get home,” said Jenkins.
To watch clips from the musical, click here.