New York

Urban Griots


“Griots,” we were told at the beginning of the evening, are members of a West African caste who bear responsibility for preserving the history of their people. Any vehicle for conveying this history—storytelling, song, dance—is acceptable, as long as it’s entertaining. Anyone who gets through the doors at MK expects to be entertained, and this expectation became Urban Griots’ license to perform. At the same time, through its four short performance pieces, the group showed that history-making is a complicated endeavor riddled with contradiction—a fact that’s constantly threatened by the hegemonic (read: white) view that reduces history to an all-too-neat, biased whole.

In “Contradictions of the Heart,” Walter Allen Bennett, Jr. exposes the painful twists and turns of an interracial relationship. A black woman defends to her black lover her decision to date a white man. She pins her lover’s

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