“Love is illegal in Hell because it is an acid that dissolves bars.”
Assata Shakur, a civil rights activist, and Black Panther wrote these lines, which are present in every part of “The Just and the Blind.” The evening-length multimedia performance, which debuted on April 1, is made up of a succession of stories with themes of mass incarceration, police brutality, and systemic racism running through them.
Shakur’s remarks remind us that throughout the history of Black subjugation and dominance, love’s ability to endure within communities was an act of resistance and the nurturing of something beautiful despite all obstacles.
Review of ‘The Just and the Blind’
Despite its themes of acute marginalization, “The Just and the Blind” shamelessly celebrates love: the artists’ love for one another and their work; a love for family, Black sons, and community; and a love for the future prospects. “The Just and the Blind” is a truly touching performance that prompts thinking and emotion long after it ends. It is innovative, aesthetically great, and powerfully urgent.
Any discussion of the show would be incomplete without mentioning the wide range of media it utilises. “The Just and the Blind” combines four main artistic components: spoken word poetry, dancing, singing, and instrumentals, all of which are linked by similar themes of mass incarceration, police brutality, and systematic racism.
Each live element has something unique and vital to add against a backdrop of visuals by animator Xia Gordon and photography by Oakland-based photographer Brittsense.
The instrumentals of composer and musician Daniel Bernard Roumain, especially on piano and electric violin, complement Joseph’s discourse. The tunes of Roumain’s innovative soundtrack range from peaceful and introspective to tragically harsh. Roumain also has a flair for the unusual, utilising a synthesiser to create a reverb effect and playing his violin like a ukulele (while the bow is held between his teeth).
Roumain’s musical contributions are innovative, imaginative, and well-suited to the show’s emotive themes, pushing the bounds of convention.
More About The Just and the Blind
KingHavoc, a Brooklyn native who has been one of the primary actors in creating Flexing — a style mixing elements of dancehall, reggae, and hip-hop — as an art form for nearly ten years, performs mesmerizing dance performances throughout the show. KingHavoc puts on a show of incredible physicality and rhythm that defies the laws of physics and anatomy, performing a complicated series of floor maneuvers, leaping on and off the central platform, and effortlessly attaining gravity-defying postures.
His rhythmic contortions are purposeful and incisive at the same time as they are flowing and free, and they bring a focus to the physical body when combined with Roumain’s musical backing and Joseph’s storytelling. KingHavoc’s dancing expresses the multiple facets of the black body, including stories of strength and vulnerability, innocence and criminalization, captivity, and emancipation.