_The Gospel According to James_

We invite you to join us on June 8 at Victory Gardens Theater. Friends of PCG will attend The Gospel According to James, which, in the words of the playwright, “is about redemption, forgiveness, and the ferocious power that one’s memory has to protect the individual.”

The play draws heavily upon a true event: a lynching in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930. A mob hangs two black men. A third survives when a voice from the crowd calls for his release. This event has been confirmed as the last lynching to occur in the Northern U.S. and the only instance in which a person is known to survive.

The mob is reacting to the shooting of a young white man. Each protagonist remembers the event selectively. Fifty years later, James, the survivor, is asking the town to build a museum so that people will never forget the injustice that occurred. He conveniently forgets his presence at the scene of the murder. The white woman who actually killed the young man challenges his account even as she herself flees from what really happened

At the end of the play, James turns to her and can only say “You keep looking for truth and there is no question of truth. There is only a question of responsibility.”

Why does the playwright, Charles Smith, view this event thorough the recollections of victims and perpetrators? “Theatre must be more than a platform for pointing out injustice, be it from past or present,” he says. … It must attempt to make the invisible visible… It should let us know who we are…”

The play comes to the stage just as the book by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, is achieving national prominence. She depicts our national racist history in a line that starts with slavery and lynching two hundred years ago, through Jim Crow laws, and now the mass incarceration of African Americans and Hispanics under the guise of fighting a “War on Drugs.”:http://www.thecommongood.org/events/#event_552

African Americans are eight times as likely to be arrested for low level drug offenses even though drug use is comparable across all ethnic groups. In some Chicago neighborhoods over 70% of the male population have a connection with the criminal justice system. The War on Drugs did not create poverty, but surely it is perpetuating it, and victimizing minorities in the process.

The play subtly implicates us all in what Michelle Alexander lays out so convincingly. Poverty and institutional racism are visible all around us every day. But, like the protagonists in the play, we choose to see, and remember, only what is convenient and safe.

Jewish prophet and scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “Not all individuals are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Please join on Wednesday, June 8 at Victory Gardens Theater for The Gospel According to James. The curtain is at 7:30 p.m. following a reception at 6:30 p.m.

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