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TO JULY 19
As a young kid growing up in Queens, I was indifferent to the arrival of the circus. Unlike most children, I attended the “Greatest Show on Earth” only once, and it did nothing to rally my enthusiasm. I never suspected, however, that my usual childlike fervor was in any way checked by an invitation extended to “children of all ages” but not all races. Even now, it seems more a harmless omission than a subliminal symbol of racial exclusion. (Then again, what do I know about racial bias? In school, I struggled through standardized tests completely oblivious to the possible joy and ease of Ebonics.) Apparently, some have seen the need for stronger ethnic representation beneath the big top, and the result is the UniverSoul Circus, on a 16-city tour in its fifth year. In the same spirit as Quincy Jones’ all-black Wizard of Oz remake and the entire black Greek system, the African-American-owned and -operated circus was designed by President Cedric Walker, Ringmaster Casual Cal, and Artistic Director Tom Mazullo to appeal to “urban” audiences. Featuring acts such as elephants that dance to R&B and unicycling basketball players, it’s been tagged “Hip Hop Under the Big Top.” Although the only clowns I’ve seen suspiciously resemble ’70s blaxploitation film pimps, I remain open-minded to anything that might encourage black youth to take pride in our people’s accomplishments. After all, what could be more empowering than Monique (pictured), “the world’s first and only black female lion trainer”? At 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; noon, 4:30 p.m., and 8 p.m. Saturday; and noon, 3:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Capital Plaza, 6200 Annapolis Road., Landover Hills. $8-40. (800) 551-7328. (Neil Drumming)