NPR

In NYC, Activism Begins With Lessons In Theater

Wielding techniques from the global Theatre of the Oppressed movement used to train activists, one group challenges people to think beyond labels.
Elena Rose Light, "White Girl Burning Piece," performed as part of EMERGENYC, New York City, 2017. Source: Ed Woodham

On a sidewalk in the Village in downtown Manhattan, an African-American woman leans on her elbows and knees, wearing only black underpants. Scrawled in black marker all over her body are the words "Ain't I a Woman?"

Across the street, another woman lies face down, sunbathing on a large sheet of tinfoil. The sentence "White Supremacy Is Terrorism" is inked across her back, which is turning pink under the hot sun.

Nearby, a young, black man is kneeling. His body is wrapped in duct tape inscribed with the phrase "Black People Die in Public."

Traffic rumbles by on Washington Place. Some pedestrians ignore the scenes and scurry on; others stop to take photos and ask, "What's going on?"

The three sidewalk artists are part of EMERGENYC, or Emerge, a program at New York University that since 2008 has been training emerging artists whose work is a vehicle for social and political activism.

Co-director George Sánchez says this type of training is more relevant than ever.

"In the Trump

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