The Just and the Blind
Post-concert discussion with the artists.
Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Spoken Word
Daniel Bernard Roumain, Violin and Piano
Drew Dollaz, Choreographer and Dancer
Michael John Garcés, Director
David Szlasa, Projection Designer
Stacey Boggs, Lighting Designer
Xia Gordon, Animator
Lisa Armstrong, Journalist
Rika Iino, Producer
Mel Higgins, Producer
Annie March, Stage Manager
The Just and the Blind
Conceived and written by Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Original music composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain
Create Justice brings together a diverse group of artists, young people, policymakers, funders, nonprofits, and researchers from across the country to share ideas and work side-by-side to leverage the power of the arts for youth justice and reform.
The Just and the Blind is presented as part of the 2019 Create Justice Forum.
The Just and the Blind is produced by Sozo Artists, Inc., in partnership with the Sozo Impact Fund and its fiscal sponsor, Silicon Valley Community Foundation.
Lead funding for Create Justice is provided by The Kresge Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
Major funding for Create Justice is provided by Ameriprise Financial and MetLife Foundation.
Support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by members of Carnegie Hall’s Composer Club.
In the Artists’ Own Words
The Just and the Blind is a concert of voice, body, and musical and visual scores; dispatches from the prime suspect years; and documents of the beauty of forgotten blocks. It is Groundhog Day, and we are black again. We are weighing the scale of a teenager’s mistakes against the gravity of a father’s memory, hoping to get out of jail / free …
Each frame within the work is a moment that meditates on the contradiction of man-child citizenship. How does a black boy become an American? How does he learn his role to play? And what if that role, in part, is to stand in his country’s closet, waiting for someone to imagine him as a monster in the dark?
Each frame performs a different side of this contradiction come alive, and sings from a father’s perspective as he helps his son navigate American justice. Each creative element in the work responds to this broad prompt and direction. Sometimes this responsibility is carried fully by the music, and sometimes it is carried by the moving; the body. Most often it is carried by a combination of voices—visual, narrative, musical, and movement-based—that collectively draw a map of black parenthood and American justice.
—Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Collaborating with Marc Bamuthi Joseph is always vital and exhilarating. It requires understanding and adopting new perspectives on historical injustices, and a willingness to be bold with artistry as an expressive tool. As we express, receive, and listen to The Just and the Blind, my role as a black, Haitian American composer and father requires a commitment to artistry and empathy that informs its nuanced score. From soundscapes to songs, I created a soundtrack that endeavors to serve the work’s narratives. Collaborating with our creative team has been a revelatory joy, and I hope The Just and the Blind is an important journey for all of us who are still here, defiant and alive.
—Daniel Bernard Roumain
Marc Bamuthi Joseph
Marc Bamuthi Joseph (BAMUTHI) is a curator of words, ideas, and protagonists. His bold, poetically driven work investigates social issues and cultural identity. He is a steadfast believer in empathy as the most valuable currency in building community, and he seeks to spark curiosity and dialogue about freedom, compassion, and fearlessness through pioneering arts stewardship and education.
A 2017 TEDGlobal Fellow, BAMUTHI appeared on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s Young Innovators in the Arts and Sciences; artistically directed HBO’s Brave New Voices presented by Russell Simmons; and was an inaugural recipient of the United States Artists Rockefeller Fellowship, which recognizes 50 of the country’s greatest living artists. Dance Magazine named BAMUTHI one of the most influential people in dance in 2017.
BAMUTHI’s evening-length work, red, black & GREEN: a blues, was nominated for a 2013 Bessie Award for outstanding production of a work that stretches the boundaries of a traditional form. His latest work, /peh-LO-tah/, was inspired by soccer and his first-generation American experience, intersecting global economics, cross-border fan culture, and the politics of joy. Recent commissions include the libretto for Home in 7 for the Atlanta Ballet, and theater work for South Coast Repertory. BAMUTHI recently collaborated with Daniel Bernard Roumain on a new chamber opera, We Shall Not Be Moved, co-commissioned and produced by Opera Philadelphia, New York’s Apollo Theater, and London’s Hackney Empire. The work premiered under the direction of Bill T. Jones in October 2017. BAMUTHI has won numerous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Creative Capital.
BAMUTHI is the founding program director of the nonprofit organization Youth Speaks, and co-founder of Life is Living, a national series of one-day festivals that activate under-resourced parks and affirm peaceful urban life. His essays have been published in Harvard Education Press, and he has lectured at more than 200 colleges. BAMUTHI has also carried adjunct professorships at Stanford and Lehigh universities, among others, and currently serves as vice president and artistic director of social impact at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC.
Daniel Bernard Roumain
Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR)’s acclaimed work as a composer and performer spans more than two decades, and has been commissioned by venerable artists and institutions worldwide. “About as omnivorous as a contemporary artist gets” (The New York Times), DBR is perhaps the only composer whose collaborations traverse the worlds of Philip Glass, Bill T. Jones, Savion Glover, and Lady Gaga.
Known for signature violin sounds that are infused with myriad electronic and urban music influences, DBR takes his genre-bending music beyond the proscenium. He has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Music Composition for his work with ESPN; featured as the keynote performer at technology conferences; and written large-scale, site-specific music for public parks. DBR made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2000 with the American Composers Orchestra, performing his Harlem Essay for Orchestra (a Whitaker Commission). He went on to compose works for Boston Pops Orchestra, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, and the Library of Congress, among others.
DBR’s commitment to arts education has garnered long-term relationships with countless universities, orchestras, and performing arts centers. He earned his doctorate degree in music composition from the University of Michigan, and is currently an institute professor of practice at Arizona State University. An avid arts industry leader, DBR serves on the board of directors of the League of American Orchestras, Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP), and Creative Capital, and on the advisory committee of the Sphinx Organization. He was also co-chair of the 2015 and 2016 APAP conferences.
DBR recently premiered We Shall Not Be Moved, a chamber opera with a libretto by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and direction by Bill T. Jones that was co-commissioned and produced by Opera Philadelphia, New York’s Apollo Theater, and London’s Hackney Empire. The work has been called “the best classical performance of 2017” (The New York Times).
Drew Dollaz is a pioneer of flexing—a Brooklyn-based genre of street dance also referred to as bone-breaking—that is characterized by rhythmic contortionist movements. A self-taught dancer, Dollaz is known for blending flexing with other styles of dance, including ballet, to create a transcendent hybrid of movement artistry. Dollaz has performed and partnered with a broad range of artists who include Madonna, Rihanna, and Skrillex, and brands that include Red Bull, Sony, Aloft Hotels, and Billboard. His performances on Madonna’s 2012 MDNA Tour marked the first time flexing appeared on the world stage.
Next Level Squad—a New York City collective of flexing dancers with which Dollaz performs and choreographs—has garnered more than one million views on YouTube, and has been featured at Breakin’ Convention and on World of Dance and America’s Got Talent. He recently completed a short dance film, En Pointe, and looks forward to the release of his acting debut in a feature-length film. Arts education and youth empowerment are core tenets of Dollaz’s work, and he currently mentors young dancers and teaches internationally.
Born in Illinois to immigrants from Rwanda and Uganda, acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Somi has built a career of transatlantic sonicism and storytelling. Her second album for Sony Music, Petite Afrique, is a daring and relevant refashioning of jazz and African music, both singularly and in relation to each other. The album—which tells the story of African immigrants in a gentrified Harlem—features special guest Aloe Blacc and won a 2018 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Jazz Album. Petite Afrique follows on the heels of Somi’s chart-topping debut album, The Lagos Music Salon—inspired by an 18-month creative sabbatical in Lagos, Nigeria—which features special guests Angélique Kidjo and Common, and landed at number one on the US jazz charts.
Often referred to as a modern-day Miriam Makeba, Somi has “the earthy gutsiness of Nina Simone blended with the vocal beauty of Dianne Reeves” (JazzTimes), and is “all elegance and awe … utterly captivating” (Billboard). She performs with her band at venues and stages around the world. In her heart of hearts, she is an East African–Midwestern girl who loves family, poetry, and freedom.