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Flying the Flag - Black Youth Theatre prepare for RAW performances

Posted on 26 June 2019

Next week, seven of the Belgrade Theatre’s youth drama groups will present a series of short performances as part of this year’s RAW showcase, a devising programme providing a space for young people to create their own work and explore issues that are important to them.

With the national Fly the Flag campaign celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 24-30 June, we’ve been taking a look at how our young participants have been engaging with themes of social justice, inequality and the right to live free from discrimination.

First of all, we dropped in on our Black Youth Theatre group, whose three performances all explore different challenges faced by young black people today.

Black Youth Theatre in rehearsal

“Our performance is about the skin lightening industry, looking at different shades of black and how there are a lot of people in this world who are not happy with the way they look,” explains Ife.

“The idea came from a panel we went to, where we had to present information we had found out about skin lightening and had a conversation about it. Since then, we’ve developed our research quite a lot,” adds Mizaiah.

Black Youth Theatre in rehearsal

“We had already done quite a lot of research before we thought of ideas we could put into this performance,” Ife continues. “I think we watched about 100 videos as well as interviewing people about what they thought about their shade, and it was really interesting how everyone had something different to say.”

“We hope that people will go away feeling that all shades are beautiful, and that it’s okay to be how you want to be. It doesn’t matter what other people say – it’s about how you see yourself,” says Destiny.

Black Youth Theatre in rehearsal

“Our story is about a young adult who is coming to terms with her sexuality,” says Noah. “It shows how she is struggling to deal with what her father thinks about it, and how her church doesn’t approve of it.”

“The idea came from one of my friends at school who is black and pansexual,” explains Femi. “I got to know about her experiences and wanted to spread awareness about how difficult it is to be discriminated against on the basis of your race, gender, sexuality and culture all at once. That experience of being gay, black and a woman felt like an important story to tell.”

Black Youth Theatre in rehearsal

Discrimination can, of course, be indirect as well as direct. The third Black Youth Theatre performance is about knife crime, and while attacks may not be directly motivated by discrimination, it’s nonetheless something which often affects the most disadvantaged people in society.

“In our story, a boy ends up getting stabbed with his own knife after trying to stab someone else, says Michael.

Black Youth Theatre in rehearsal

“We’re doing this to show what is actually happening to real people in the world today. Kids are actually dying in knife crime attacks, which is why we’ve set it partly in a school, but a lot of the time, people are too scared or nervous to talk about it, so we wanted to act it out in our play to show the reality of it,” adds Keaton.

Black Youth Theatre in rehearsal

RAW performances will be presented to an invited audience of family, staff and friends from Monday 1 until Thursday 11 July. More information about the Belgrade Youth Theatre groups and how to join can be found in our Take Part section.

For more information about the Fly the Flag campaign and how you can get involved, visit the Fly the Flag website.