Darick T. Earney
The Southwestern Illinois University of Edwardsville (SIUE) Black Theatre Workshop returned to Lewis and Clark to perform their original production “Justice Too Long Delayed.”
Starting around 11 a.m. at the chapel on campus, the event began with an opening speech by Jared Hennings, who discussed his excitement for the play, while students and staff grabbed their seats.
Soon after, the stage lights went up as the cast entered from opposite sides of the chapel, while a loud hip-hop beat accompanied them. The actors formed a line on stage, while a leading male stamped across the stage, pleading the lines: “You Do The Crime, You’ll Pay The Time.”
Following this were a medley of famous songs, chanted by the crew, including “Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley, and the freedom anthem “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around.”
Everyone gathered around the leading man as he was getting arrested, pleading his innocence before they stopped and synchronously raised their hands and yelled: “Hands Up. Don’t Shoot.”
As the story progressed, the audience learned of a time when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been arrested for protesting during the Civil Rights movement in Birmingham, Alabama.
During this time, King wrote a 13 page letter in jail stating his passion to, one day, see a world with justice and peace. This set the tone for the rest of the play.
“The only way to alleviate the societal issues we face is to talk about them,” Artistic Director and Associate Professor of Theater at SIUE, Kathryn Bentley said, “and it is through theater that we get the chance to tackle these issues and address them to a wider audience.”
Later scenes of the production featured slam poetry, rapping, and debates between characters discussing racial double standards in America, and the hypocrisies of the Black Lives Matter Movement, jumping back and forth between 2015 and 1963, while using excerpts from King’s letter.
At the show’s conclusion, the cast began chanting the words “We Shall Overcome,” while castmates ran up and down the aisles of the chapel and interacted with the audience.
Afterward, the troupe stuck around for questions from those in attendance, and explained how they begun the writing process for the show, by reading a copy of the actual letter written by a jailed Martin Luther King, Jr., and treated the play as a passion project.
“It was a great experience to collaborate with everyone in writing this show,” Assistant Director and Theater Performance Major at SIUE, Kenneth Coleman said.“I really hope the audience took a positive message away from seeing this show and that we can help resurrect justice everywhere by performing it.”
For more information regarding the Black Theatre Workshop, or other theater departments on SIUE’s campus, contact Kathryn Bentley at (618) 650-2436, or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.