City Paper is not for tourists
Last spring, a parent in the audience at a middle school recital was so moved by the children’s performances that she couldn’t help but to stand up…and boo.
Jackie Carter, a local stage director, attended an April 29 production of the Bowen McCauley Dance Company held at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Va., where her daughter attends school, and was outraged by one of the group’s skits, “Little Rabbit, Where’s Your Mammy?”
Innocent sounding, sure. But picture this: At a middle school dance performance, children act out a skit featuring an antebellum African-American wet-nurse, or “mammy.” For a black theater buff like Carter, it was too much to take.
And depending on the verdict of her trial that begins April 23, she may face up to a year in jail for doing so.
According to the Afro, the presentation was promoted as a “tribute to American folk culture traditions.” Apparently, folk traditions include finding entertainment in the perpetuation of slavery’s finest stereotypes—such as that of the wide-hipped black women who joyously cared for the children of their slave masters.
After noticing the skit in the dance company’s performance, Carter says she reached out to the school principal and local officials about the performance prior to her in-show outburst, to no avail.
Carter returned for an afternoon performance the next day, passed out fliers, and booed the skit. She was later charged with disorderly conduct in a public place, a class-one misdemeanor usually reserved for drunken drifters and angry arrestees.
Booing a children’s performance extreme. But that the skit didn’t outrage, offend, or otherwise drive anyone else to action is shameful.
The school’s principal circulated a letter after the incident on May 2 of last year, stating that the term “mammy” is a “colloquial affectionate term used for mother or grandmother.”
Kind of like the way “dick” is a colloquial affectionate term used for male genitalia, we guess.
Photo by JoelK75 via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License