“Diaspora” is a term originally coined as a reference to the
descendents of Israel scattered throughout the globe, then applied to
other specific ethnic populations. The phrase “African Diaspora”
became fashionable towards the end of the 20th century, and gained
popularity with the advent of the millennium.
For Michael Washington Brown (https://michaelwashingtonbrown.com/),
the circumstances of his birth and his lineage compelled him to
embrace this idea of a collective of those “…of African origin living
outside the continent (defined by the African Union)…” Born in England
of Barbadian (his mother) and Jamaican (his father) heritage, his
decision to become an actor led to his quest to “tell stories that
were not being told.”
The result is his one-man show, titled provocatively “Black.” In it,
he assumes four different personas–African, English, Jamaican, and
American–to tell their own personal, alternately similar and
contrasting perspectives of living Black (informed by Brown’s own,
personal experiences). Currently on view at Melrose Avenue’s Zephyr
Theatre, the production comes Los Angeles after successful runs in
Chicago, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Much of the material in this 90-minute performance has been covered
before, including commentary on the Willie Lynch manifesto, the self
destructive penchant of the “hip hop” generation to refer to each
other as “bches, h*oes, and niers, and the on going divide between
light- and dark-skinned elements of the race.
The core of the show seems to be the folly of lumping all of these
hundreds of millions of descendents of the Dark Continent scattered
across the world into one neat, convenient cluster. Even the most
casual observer of the ongoing ethnic (and racial) melodrama within
this particular city knows about the schism, cultural, political, and
otherwise between those who reside east of La Brea and others who
inhabit West L.A. and environs along the coast.
The divide only increases when the factors of geographic and point of
origin are brought into the mix. As Brown notes:
“…not all of us are African-American, and we don’t all share the same
As presented at the Zephyr, this is a bare bones affair in which Brown
utilizes a chair, incidental music, and projected graphics to drive
his point home. He is a compelling performer but it is occasionally
difficult to hear the nuances of the various accents as he slips
between the four separate guises.
“Black” is being presented every Sunday at 7 p.m. through Oct. 14 at
the Zephyr Theatre (http://www.zephyrtheatre.com/), 7456 Melrose Ave.
Tickets are $12.50.