Black Lives Matter takes stage in Santa Monica
In the wake of "Black Lives Matter" protests, a group of young black people stood before an audience to tell their stories of their experiences with the police.
Reliving past trauma and hurt, they told their stories that they thought they buried in the past.
Donning "Bulletproof: #BlackLivesMatter" t-shirts, the group performed their monologues, some sounding like horror stories.
"Power: From The Mouths Of The Occupied" performance piece put on by Patrisse Cullors, Damon Turner, and a group of eight young African American individuals, debuted to a packed audience on February 27 at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica.
The project started in Kalamazoo, Michigan with a different cast, the plan being that a new cast will perform in each city. This past weekend it was in Los Angeles.
Not everyone in the piece had been physically brutalized by the police.
Tanya Lucia Bernard said, "I wasn't beaten to death or near death, I was physically unscathed but spiritually marked."
While protesting for justice for Ezell Ford during the LA Marathon, police pushed protesters back, forming a barrier between the runners and them.
Some runners put up a fist or chanted that they were with the protesters; however, some let out searing yells and thanked officers for protecting them.
Bernard asked, "Protecting them from us?"
Another performer Povi-Tamu Bryant recounted the story of her encounter with police detectives while trying to catch the man who sexually assaulted her.
Bryant wasn't wearing underwear at the time of the assault and the detective asked, "Is that something that you do often?"
"This is not what justice feels like," she said before the audience.
After the first half, a video played, resonating voices spoke about their experiences with police brutality, and a familiar voice from the performance played.
"My name is Mark Anthony Johnson and my preferred gender pronoun is 'he.' In 2012, my home was raided by the Los Angeles Police Department. I woke up to a fully armed squad of LAPD officers, guns drawn outside of my bedroom door because they said I fit the description."
Voices cut over each other, more names, more cracked voices in despair over the impact that state violence has had over their lives.
Over the hurt voices in the background of the video was nature shots, destinations, luxuries, freedoms that everyone should get to enjoy. Carefully planned, the faces that appeared were those of white people laughing, enjoying themselves, not a worry in the world.
"No matter how many suits and ties you got, no matter how many degrees you got, you're still a nigger," said one voice before Cullors chimed in.
"We Charge Genocide in 1951," Cullors said.
She continued, "It is sometimes incorrectly thought that genocide means the complete and definitive destruction of a race or people. The Genocide Convention, however, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1948 defines genocide as any killings on the basis of race or in its specific words, 'Killing members of the group.'"
The young men and women continued their monologues, some of them interconnected because they've known each other. Some of them, however, were interconnected because of the similarities in their stories.
One of the most chilling of all was that of Jasmine Richards who was left shot and bleeding on the concrete after a party that went wrong.
Instead of just immediately sending for an ambulance to take her to the hospital, an officer asked her, "What gang are you from? Why are you here? Who shot you?"
Richards thought she would be saying her last words.
Cullors joined in the performance too, performing with Turner. She wrapped the American flag around her body and chanted,"Black lives matter," while Turner delivered powerful spoken word, the verses fast, the message resounding throughout the audience.
It was clear throughout the performance that some of the monologues were hard to read, but the audience supported them anyway.
The most joyous part of the evening was the song performances participated in by the whole group, singing and dancing to Nina Simone's "To Be Young, Gifted and Black."
After the hardships throughout the performance, the group smiled and laughed with each other and recovered from the tears it took to get through the piece.
While the performance is over, the message will be carried on throughout the country.