Black Voices: Our Stories, Our Lives - 26th Annual AfroSolo Arts Festival - June 9-30, 2021
A Juneteenth Celebration Featuring Two Programs on Facets of the African American Experience - Streamed Online Free Of Charge
Program One features the journeys of four formerly incarcerated Black men on their road to recovery and their return to society. Program Two features AfroSolo's founder, Thomas Robert Simpson, as he recounts how his father overcame many struggles as a Black man raising a family in the Jim Crow South.
This year's festival takes place On-Demand via AfroSolo's YouTube Channel (programs to be posted in June). To make the performances available to a wide audience, the online event is free of charge. No RSVPs are required.
AfroSolo Arts Festival
PROGRAM ONE: June 9-13, 2021
Black Men: Embracing Our Light
In Collaboration with Mentoring Men's Movement
(Includes a Zoom Talk Back)
Black Men: Embracing Our Light (BMEOL) explores the Black male experience within the Prison Industrial Complex. Black men have made up a disproportionate number of incarcerated people in the United States and BMEOL provides an opportunity for four men affected by the industry to share their stories and give voice to the experience.
"…we are standing in the light: and, if in this light, which is both loving and merciless, we are able to confront ourselves, we are liberated…" -- James Baldwin
Larry Griffin - My First Day In Jail
Born and raised in San Francisco, Mr. Griffin was first incarcerated at SF Juvenile Hall, where he never should have been, at the tender age of seven. From 2nd grade through Junior High School, his interactions with authority were repeatedly brutal emotionally and physically. From 1999 to 2014, he was an alcohol and drug counselor and dedicated himself to help others gain their freedom from addictions and live fulfilling lives. Griffin is excited to share his story and hopes that it will be an inspiration for others to follow their dreams. My First Day in Jail was written and performed by Larry Griffin, and directed by Wayne Harris. Dramaturg, Thomas Robert Simpson. (Photo by Jim Dennis.)
Geoffrey Grier - Resurrection
Mr. Grier manages the San Francisco Recovery Theatre, whose mission is to organize the synergy between actors, scripted material, and newcomers (recently incarcerated and homeless performers). As a recovering addict, Grier contends that the artistic process of working in theater and performing arts gives people a chance to take down the masks they wear on the street and learn how to communicate from the heart and in the moment. Grier graduated with a BA in Psychology at San Francisco State University. Resurrection was written and performed by Geoffrey Grier and directed by Thomas Robert Simpson, dramaturg, (Photo by Jim Dennis.)
Freddy Lee Johnson - Taking Care of the Long Tone
Sentenced to prison at 18, Freddy's turning point was joining the San Quentin Stage Band, where he played trumpet and shared the stage with music legend Sheila E. When paroled in 1995, he became involved with the Harm Reduction Coalition and moved up the ranks to become their Director of Policy, twice testifying before the U.S. Congress. Since retiring, he has refocused on his music. Johnson's performance is in collaboration with The Formerly Incarcerated People's Performance Project. Taking Care of the Long Tone was written and performed by Freddy Lee Johnson and directed by Mark Kenward. (Photo courtesy of Freddy Lee Johnson.)
Vernon Medearis - My Name Is Vernon
Mr. Medearis is a native San Franciscan who as a youngster wanted to know more about his family history. He questioned why the names of his grandparents and great-grandparents were unknown to him. As a young man, he encountered police harassment and witnessed major social changes across the decades in the San Francisco Bay Area. He recently celebrated 25 years on stage. He was Bono in Fences at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and the Duke in Cinderella. He has also worked with Lewis Campbell and the Multi-Ethnic Theatre. My Name is Vernon was written and performed by Vernon Medearis and directed by Norman Gee. Dramaturg, Thomas Robert Simpson. (Photo by Jim Dennis.)
AfroSolo Arts Festival
PROGRAM TWO: June 17- 20, 2021
COURAGE UNDER FIRE: The Liberation of Elroy
Written and Performed by Thomas Robert Simpson
Courage Under Fire: The Liberation of Elroy is a story of being Black in America. It's about family, race, politics, and redemption. It explores the life of Thomas Robert Simpson's father, Elroy Simpson. It is Elroy's journey from the snares of Jim Crow's insanity to his personal enlightenment. Thomas traces four generations of the Simpson family to celebrate Elroy's liberation and its significance on those around him.
Courage Under Fire: The Liberation of Elroy is a multimedia theater work based on text, video, and projections. Directed by Rodney Earl Jackson. Dramaturg, Felirene Bongolan and Drama Therapist, Lance McGee. (Photo by Charles Michael Ballestamon.)
An award-winning actor, director, producer, and writer, Mr. Simpson has used AfroSolo's Community Engagement program to focus on essential issues in the Black community: health, justice, and education.
AfroSolo Theatre Company's mission is to nurture, promote, and present African American and African Diaspora art and culture through solo performances and the visual arts. Founded in San Francisco in 1993, AfroSolo has provided a forum to give an authentic voice to the diverse experiences of Black people in the Americas. Through art, we bring people of different ethnicities together to explore and share the human spirit that binds us all.
Funding for the AfroSolo Theatre Company is made possible in part through the support of the Friends of AfroSolo, California Arts Council, The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco Grants for the Arts, The Flow Fund and the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
Community Partners: African American Art and Culture Complex, African American Theatre Alliance for Independence (AATAIN), Congregation Emanu-El, Intersection for the Arts, Mentoring Men's Movement, The Formerly Incarcerated People's Performance Project, and the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.
The Formerly Incarcerated People's Performance Project
The Formerly Incarcerated People's Performance Project focuses on formerly incarcerated performers telling stories about their life experiences. Their stories give hope for the human condition and our ability to reform and reinvent ourselves, as well as giving us the opportunity as a society to reconsider the inhumane conditions that prisoners often endure.
Mentoring Men's Movement
The Mentoring Men's Movement is a community re-entry organization. Our founders believe that an effective re-entry program must begin during incarceration to build a bridge back to the community with continued guidance and support upon release. We seek to help build healthier and safer communities by providing transitional and transformative services to the incarcerated, previously incarcerated, and others who are committed to positive change.
San Francisco Recovery Theatre
The San Francisco Recovery Theatre (SFRT) is a grassroots organization whose mission is to use the arts to assist people in battling substance abuse, mental health issues, housing issues, and citizens returning from corrections. Their goal is to help those in need build healthier and enriched lives. SFRT thrives on providing a safe space where people of different cultures, races, and religious backgrounds can experience the lifestyles of others without feeling threatened.
AfroSolo is fiscally sponsored by Intersection for the Arts, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which allows us to offer you tax deductions for contributions. Checks can be made payable to Intersection for the Arts. Write AfroSolo Theatre Company in the memo line. This ensures that an acknowledgement letter will be generqted for tax purposes, and your donation will be available for AfroSolo's projects. Mail checks to: Intersection for the Arts,
1446 Market Street, San Francisco, California 94102. Or, click here to make an online donation!
NOTE TO MEDIA: Interviews are available by arrangement.
Jackie Wright, Media Contact
Page Updated Last on: Jun 11, 2021