"If we're serious about correcting the imbalance created by decades of inequality, we have to do more than just be silent." That's how lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson frames the problem of racial injustice in America, especially in the prison system. And dance artists Jon Boogz and Lil Buck have responded to his call to action by speaking out with their bodies.
The two dancers teamed up with Stevenson and artist Hank Willis Thomas to create "Am I a Man?", a short film that depicts a heartbreaking—and all too common—journey through the brutal realities of the criminal justice system. The choreographic storytelling is intercut with commentary from Stevenson, who articulates just how unfair that system can be to people of color.
"In this country, we don't want to talk about racial bias in our criminal justice system," Stevenson says. "One out of three black men between the ages of 18 and 30 is in jail, in prison, on probation, or on parole. In communities of color, there is this despair, there is this hopelessness that's being shaped by these outcomes."
"Am I a Man?" is produced in part by Movement Art Is, a nonprofit founded by Jon Boogz and Lil Buck to help dancers harness the social impact of dance. The first MAI film, "Color of Reality"—a meditation on the racial and economic tensions that dominate the news cycle—went viral last fall.