Updated: Sep 26, 2022
An excerpt from a Play by Joshua D. Harris
*This is an excerpt. Our goal is to get everyone who reads this play to donate $5 to our fundraiser. Our goal is to raise $5,000 by November 1, 2022.
Mark, Teen, Son of Mom & Dad, Fearless.
Brother, Reactively Urgent. Emotionally Dismissive.
Mom, Concerned Parent. Silently Courageous.
Dad, Stern Parent. Boldly Fearful.
Evan, Teen, Pridefully Condescending.
Mark’s House Spring Day.
The Forest. Midnight.
A dark vortex, with a blinding white spotlight. Filled with jazz music in the background, fingers snapping, and black panther inspired outfits (Kangal hats, and trench coats)
(Lights up. Mark recites this poem.)
The Black Hole (poem)
I hate what I hate and love what I love.
I hate gravity and being tied down to the earth.
I hate shopping around and always being told what I’m worth.
I hate hating and expressing fake love.
I love to hate, but hate to fake love.
I love the feeling of falling in love each day.
I love the idea of dreams being real.
I hate nightmares and all my fears that they might just be true.
Heaven knows my mind is just as gray, as the ocean and sky that appears blue.
I’m in love with a woman that I feel I should hate.
I’m in love with a woman that my parents would never want me to date.
I think the fear of love is the only thing that can push it away.
I think the fear of never finding it again is what causes most of my angst.
Relationships are like stars scattered through space.
What feels like forever is always gearing to end.
The fine line between nevermore and evermore.
Reasons, I tell my story, the black spec lying against the cold domino wall.
Fade To Black.
Scene 1: A Darker Matter (Prologue)
(Mark sits at a kitchen table. Mom stands over the counter drying the dishes she just washed. Dad is pacing frustrated.)
I came as soon as I saw the message. Is everything okay? What's wrong?
Go head Mark, tell your brother what happened to your eye.
Look, it's really not a big deal.
Not a big deal! Those boys could have killed you– Not a big deal! See this is exactly what I knew was going to happen if we let our boy go to an uppity prep school..
Look at me. What did they do to you?
It was just a little fight, nothing more– nothing less.
They called you a N–!
(Mother drops a plate on the ground.)
(Brother grabs his coat and starts to make for the door. Mom blocks him..)
Mom let me go.
Mm mm. They almost killed one of my boys tonight. I'm not going to go through that again.
That’s all those people know is violence towards folks that look like us.. That's why I don’t mess with them. Let them have their stuff and we got ours. What’s so bad about a little segregation? This is what brother Malcolm tried to warn us about, but no– we had to do all that marching and sitting in, so 50 years later they can do this to our boy. It’s pitiful!
Yeah well all that marching and sitting in led to this. We both have jobs working under a white man’s company, and it’s afforded us this house and the opportunity to earn enough money to send our kids to a better school so they don’t have to grow up in a neighborhood full of dope fiends and gang bangers.
Hell! We did, and look how we turned out. Fine. Didn’t we? Besides those are stereotypes put on us by the white man. Their kids at their school’s do the same thing. Look at our boy’s face. Those were thugs that did this to him. Racist. White thugs.
If he did like we asked him then they would have never messed with him in the first place.
You think this is my fault?
No. Of course not! But we told you not to mess around with no white girl!
Okay so now you’re blaming Courtney?
Well that’s what this is about isn’t it? If it wasn’t for that girl you would have never been at that party and those boys would have never been jealous of you.
Courtney is not the problem. The problem is that after four hundred years of slavery we keep passing on these prejudice thoughts and traditions to discriminate one another. My face is nobody’s fault. I. A black kid got into a fight with another kid who just so happened to be white. There end of story.
He called you a nigger to your face. I raised you better than that. I don’t care if it’s the president of the united states you don’t ever let no white man call you a nigger. You, understand me?
He didn’t call me that.
Say what now?
Nobody called me – that word okay. I made it up.. I didn’t want you to be mad at me, for getting into a fight so I made up the whole race thing.. Can we just call it a night?
Fine if you don’t want to tell me and your mother the truth, then don’t. But don’t you ever look me in my eyes and lie to me ever again, you hear me boy?
(After an intense stare down, Father exits the room.)
Mom, you should head to bed now. It’s getting late.
(Brother kisses mom on the cheek and waits for her to exit the room, before she leaves she gives Mark one last look of sad content, and then she’s gone.)
Some guts on you huh? Lying to mom and dad like that.
Not like you’ve ever done it before.
Yeah but you’re not me. You wouldn’t get into a fist fight if your life depended on it. You’re a romantic, you believe in redemption.
Yeah well I got into a fight nothing more, nothing less.
I know you probably think that I don’t care about you because I’m not around a lot. But I do.. I don’t know what they did to you at that school but whatever they did.. I’m concerned for you. It’s one thing to get bullied, but it’s another to defend one. That school is changing you bro.. In ways I can’t even imagine.
(Brother gets up to leave.)
What do you think I should do? Leave? After everything I’ve been through. Just give it all up.
I think you should be careful.
I’m not scared of them.
I know, that’s what concerns me.
(Brother exits out the door, leaving Mark to sit alone with his thoughts.)
Fade to Black.
(Brother recites this poem.)
99 prayers (poem)
Ninety ninety bodies, too many,
To deal with them all
Ninety nine bodies too much,
Ninety nine bodies,
Take one away and it’s still ninety eight bodies lying dead on the floor
Ninety nine problems, too much to decide
Ninety nine problems too much,
Ninety nine days since my friend Randal was shot
He was ninety eight days away from becoming a cop
Ninety nine questions for his family to ask
Ninety nine ways for them to grieve
Ninety nine days since they saw him last
Ninety nine people showed up to say their final goodbye
Ninety nine pairs of watery, tear stained eyes
Ninety nine channels on the news to cover it all
Ninety nine names cramped on a t-shirt at a white owned clothing store
Ninety nine ways to say his life mattered
Ninety nine cops fist bumping their freedom
Ninety nine cameras to cover it all
One mother said ninety nine prayers and God finally missed one.
Now her soul mourns for the remaining nine hundred and ninety nine minutes she has on this earth.
Scene 2: Device-sive Reasoning
(Open: Evan fumbles around outside in the dirt. Mark approaches from behind.)
How’d I know I find you here?
You, here to take what’s left from me?
Funny. Last time I checked, I was the one with nothing.
You should have just left things alone, walked away when you had the chance.
I could have, but that wouldn’t have been right.
You think this is right? Tormenting me? Watching me suffer.
You are unbelievable, you know that? Here I am, with literally nothing, and you still can’t wipe the smog out of your own face to admit that you were wrong, and that everything that is happening to you is a product of your own ignorance.
You attacked me. At the party, that was you who smashed a bottle over my head.. You attacked me! Everybody saw you do it, and guess what. Somehow I’m the one who gets expelled for fighting back, and you .. you get to come back to school and continue your education. So what a couple of people are shaming you, you deserve it. But what about me and my life.. My career, my future .. it’s all down the drain because I tried to defend myself.
Honestly.. Sometimes I wish I was never born black. Then maybe I could just live my life and not have to always carry around this target on my back. Do you know what that’s like? To carry around a target on your back. I can’t even go to Walmart without an undercover shopper following me around the whole damn store, thinking I’m there to steal something.. I got a job, I earn my money too.
Look man, I hope you're happy. I hope you got what you wanted, because I have nothing, and twenty, thirty years from now when my kids are in your neighborhood robbing you and your family I want you to think about this day… think about how you could have prevented all of that by just minding your business and not wanting to turn a black man’s life into a living hell. I mean what were you thinking smashing a bottle over my head, and calling me Nigger. Ooooh that crap made me so mad I could have killed you… I mean I really could have killed you right then and there, but as I was fighting you I saw something. I saw an insecure little boy, who was afraid, because you knew at that moment that despite all of your pride and ego that you were wrong, that you had made a mistake.. And I honestly believe that your life flashed before your eyes. That’s why you’re out here now. Trying to rewrite your history.
Yeah I know about the phone. I was the one who messaged you about it. I knew you’d come out here looking for it, so you could delete those videos.
To tell you the truth, those videos never existed. I made it up. I just wanted revenge. I wanted to see you come out here and squirm around on your hands and knees, like my ancestors used to have to do. When you called me Nigger this is how it made me feel. It made me feel like a slave. It made me feel like a hopeless being, down on his hands and knees while somebody else more powerful stood over me, tormenting me. Just for the sake of doing it. I want you to remember this feeling the next time you plan on saying the word. This is what it feels like to be black in America. Hopeless, afraid, and humiliated. Every time you see a black guy I want you to think of me, and think of how much power I had over you. How I outsmarted you and made you feel like an insecure little boy…
(Evan explodes with rage and lunges at Mark.)
I’ll kill you! I swear to God I’ll kill you.. I’ll kill you.. you…
(As Evan is strangling Mark, Mark just keeps looking out at the audience. Evan catches his stare. He now looks out into the audience, a look of fearful realization covers his face. )
Fade To Black.
(Mom and Dad recite this poem. Alternating speaking on every other line.)
Piano Keys (poem)
In the key of life
Two hands glide across the piano keys
Gently pressing the black and white spaces
Giggling, smiling and listening to every note
What color are melodies and tunes?
Whatever color they need to be to fill the imagination of an infinite mind.
You see, color is only a pigment.
A way for our brains to process light and dark.
We give color its meaning by associating it with character traits and stereotypes.
We make color more important than it really is.
Color ain’t nothing but a paint job.
The universe is a giant blank canvas, and the life inhabiting it, we are the paint brushes.
We don’t get to decide the architect's grand design, all we get is our spot on the canvas to add our own little splash of color.
There are no assigned colors. Everyone is free to paint using whatever color they want.
You see life isn’t black and white, it’s a rainbow, full of infinite shades and combinations.
So the next time you look at the keys of a piano. I want you to close your eyes and press one.
Ask yourself what color did I hear?
Then I want you to press down on as many keys as you can?
And Ask yourself what color did I just feel?
Before you answer I want you to ask yourself:
Why are there only two color keys on the piano when those same two colors are capable of producing an infinite number of outcomes?
It’s almost as if by design we are programmed to divide our imaginations into only two sides of an infinite melody.
Fade To Black.