Vicitms of police violence: Playwright debuts play on injustice

Actor Clinton Lowe is playing the character Daz, in the play “Kill Move Paradise,” which runs at National Black Theatre May 31–June 25.
Christine Jean Chambers

The painful tale we all know.

A new thought-provoking play documenting the horrors of police brutality and vigilantism is debuting at the National Black Theatre starting on May 31. “Kill Move Paradise” is a story that follows four men who meet the fate of extra-judicial or vigilante violence, mirroring major headlines following the deaths of black men. The play is a timely reminder of what is continually happening and sheds light on the aftermath, said the playwright.

“I felt that I wanted to write something about what’s going on because I also noticed when young men are killed, the media automatically is trying to find out if he was a good kid or a or bad kid — they’re not allowed to be people,” said James W. Ijames. “But even if they are bad that doesn’t warrant them being killed. It’s an incredible imbalance and I wanted to create space where they’re elevated and get to be their pure selves.”

There are four main characters in the play — Daz, Isa, Grif, and Tiny — all ranging in age and all finding themselves as victims, and in the same alternate place. Their names are not explicitly Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown — two black teenagers killed by vigilantism and police — but are constructed on multiple victims, he added.

“The characters are not based on specific instances but are kind of composites of a lot of different ones,” said Ijames.

All the characters die but come to know each other in an afterlife-like world where they learn what happened to them, said Ijames.

“They don’t know each other — they only know each other in this afterworld but they eventually come to realization on how they got there,” he said.

Playwright James Ijames, wrote “Kill Move Paradise” to remind people of the extrajudicial injustices affecting young black men. The play debuts at National Black Theatre in Harlem May 31–June 25.
Kim Carson Photography

Ijames said along with the play looking into the outcome of who each man was before death, it was a very personal play for him that hit close to home

“It could be me — I have two nephews, uncles, and it could be any of them,” said Ijames. “I felt like my experience with law enforcement thankfully hasn’t violent, but they have existed, and it’s part of being and growing up in America as a black man and knowing it can happen.”

During the 65-minute play the names of several victims will be called to paying honor to their lives cut short, said Ijames.

But most importantly Ijames says he uses his craft as a writer to elicit varying emotions from his viewers. Even though the subject matter at hand initially seems dark, he uses some laughter to help ease the story.

“I hope people are moved by it. There are definitely some moments that are quite funny and moments that are not and sad,” said Ijames. “I was not sitting down to write a comedy or a really intense drama, but I will say that I use humour to open people up because if you get people to laugh, you can teach them something.”

“Kill Movie Paradise” at National Black Theatre [2031 5th Ave. between Dr. Martin Luther King Boulevard and E. 126th Street in Harlem, (212) 722-3800, www.nationalblacktheatre.org]. May 25–June 25. Sun. at 4 pm, Monday, Thursday – Friday at 7:30 pm, with a Saturday 2 pm and 7:30 pm. $25–40.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com.
Actor Donnell Smith will play the character Grif in the play. He is one of four characters in the story that meets a fate.
Maria J. Hackett

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