In the latest installment of the Broadway Advocacy Coalition series The Invitation, Professor Bernard Harcourt (right) and Tony Award–winning playwright David Henry Hwang (left) participated in a dialogue about their responses to hate and how to bring about substantive change.
Only in New York City could Broadway artists share the stage with law professors, students, and community activists to discuss bias and hate crimes. That’s exactly what happened on Feb. 12 at Columbia University, when “The People v. Hate,” a unique collaboration between legal scholars and artists, featured dance, singing, and dialogue.
The event was the latest installment of The Invitation, a monthly series produced by the Broadway Advocacy Coalition (BAC) and Columbia Law School that is designed to create a community of inclusion and spur new kinds of activism on racial and social justice issues.
The evening kicked off with a world-premiere vogue dance piece (choreographed by Luca Renzi and featuring Ari Grooves, Freida Labeja, and Justin Sams) that merged personal testimony of hate incidents with vogue dance.
Vogue dance legend Archie Burnett and historian George Chauncey then had a freewheeling conversation about the 1980s dance scene, drawing some lessons from the AIDs epidemic and rampant homophobia back then. “At a moment of crisis,” Chauncey said, people “rallied around, and they fought hate with love, and we can do this again.”
Columbia Law School Professor Bernard Harcourt interviewed Tony Award–winning playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Golden Child, Aida, Flower Drum Song) about his own experience with violent crime. In late 2015, Hwang, an associate professor at Columbia University’s School of the Arts, was stabbed in the neck by a stranger. Hwang wondered whether this seemingly random attack might have been a hate crime, or if he was “overreacting.” “Most of the time,” Harcourt noted, there is “this ambiguity around hate crimes.”
Prodded by Professor Susan Sturm, a key player in the unique BAC-CLS collaboration, Harcourt talked about his successful pro bono representation of Syrian-born, Chicago-based doctor Amer Al Homssi, whose visa was revoked at the Abu Dhabi airport after agents saw a Muslim prayer app on his phone. “There is nothing that feels better than using your skills to resist,” Harcourt later said.
One of the evening’s highlights was an original, poignant piece called “Baggage.” Columbia Law School students Zahed Abdul Haseebn ’17, George Najjar ’18, and Rebecca Nocharli ’18 wrote about the bias and hate they’ve experienced as a result of their Arab and Mideastern heritage, or Muslim faith. (One student is a Muslim-American.) Actor Vishal Vaidya (forthcoming Broadway production of Groundhog Day) read their pieces, while dancer Marshall Davis (Shuffle Along) provided a rhythmic interpretation that was incredibly moving:
You can watch the entire event here:
Posted on February 20, 2017