Category Archives: Crime Against Humanity

Crime Against Humanity Comes Back to the Chi!

Limited Engagement!

Crime Against Humanity
A Play Based On Real Life Experiences of 14 Puerto Rican Political Prisoners

After 5000 tickets sold, 130 shows, in over 20 cities,
Crime Against Humanity Returns to Chicago.

Tickets ($10-$20) available at:
CrimeAgainstHumanity.net

Written and Directed By:
Reyes and former political prisoner Luis Rosa
Starring Added Cast Members and New Scenes

Batey Urbano 2620 W. Division
House Opens at 7:30
Thursday May 23rd
Friday May 24th
(*Possible Saturday Show )
Produced by NBHRN and Batey Urbano. Supported by Urban Theater Company.

“Crime Against Humanity” Returns To New York

After performing to over 5000 people throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Crime Against Humanity returns to New York. Crime Against Humanity is a play based on the real life experiences of fourteen Puerto Rican political prisoners who spent more than two decades in prisons for seditious conspiracy- one of whom are still incarcerated.
The production brings us into the U.S. prison system in a way no other play has, focusing on the politically motivated use of isolation, selective punishment, sensory deprivation and disproportionate sentences.

Saturday January 12th at the RED CARPET THEATRE, 240 E 123rd St New York, NY 10035.
Time: 6:30 pm
Tickets: $15-$20

Produced by the National Boricua Human Rights Network New York City Chapter

For tickets and more information please visit CrimeAgainstHumanity.net (646) 450-4014

Or can be picked up in person East Harlem Cafe 1651 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY

Crime Against Humanity

Jornada de la Libertad: Beautiful Struggle, Love, Compassion and Hope

In the coming weeks, Puerto Ricans on the island and the Diaspora will commemorate the release of two generations of Puerto Rican freedom fighters. On September 10, 1979, after years of organizing and campaigning, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Five were released.  Twenty years to that date, and as a result of a similar demand for freedom, 11 Puerto Rican political prisoners were freed after many years of incarceration.

In honor these of historic milestones, the National Boricua Human Rights Network will convene the “Jornada de la Libertad,” a cultural celebration of poetry, theater and dialogue. Beginning on August 27, Jornada events will take place in Detroit, Cleveland, Hartford, Leominster, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Caguas and Ponce. Many of the former political prisoners will be in attendance and participate in the Jornada.

Background

In 1898, the United States invaded the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. Cloaked by the rhetoric of “democracy” and “freedom,” the U.S. established colonial rule over Puerto Rico and came to exercise full control over the economic, political and social destiny of its people. However, principled and unwavering opposition has, without pause, challenged U.S. colonialism of Puerto Rico. This September marks a moment to reflect on and celebrate this history of anti-colonial resistance.

In 1954, a cadre of Puerto Rican nationalists, led by Lolita Lebrón, attacked the U.S. House of Representatives. This act was carried out, not to advocate violence, but to draw attention to the colonial status of their nation. Four years earlier, Puerto Rican nationalist Oscar Collazo would become imprisoned for struggling for Puerto Rico’s independence.

In the early 80’s, a group of 14 freedom fighters were convicted of seditious conspiracy and were given extremely long and disproportionate jail sentences. In all three cases, the United States government sought to make them examples by locking them away to be forgotten.

And yet, the Puerto Rican nation, resilient and hopeful, a nation fully born in all of its natural beauty, in full bloom like the flamboyan, fought for and successfully won their release. After many years of work, campaigning, and struggle, each of these freedom fighters returned to their home. In fact, never in U.S. history has a single movement gained the release of so many political prisoners. Upon their release, each of these individuals returned as mystics and continued to make important contributions, molding clay, painting, writing, loving, caring, sharing and resisting.

Towards the Release of Our Remaining Political Prisoners

As humans we strive to give order to our world, choosing symbols and numbers as a way to mark our small ripple in this ocean of the universe.  September 10 gives us the opportunity to celebrate, share and remember those who have given so much to Puerto Rico’s freedom.

We hope this Jornada will strengthen and invigorate the campaign to free the remaining political prisoners, Oscar López Rivera, who has served 28 years, Carlos Alberto Torres, who has served 29 years, and Avelino González-Claudio, was recently arrested after years of living clandestinely. At this historic moment, National Boricua Human Rights Network calls on churches, organizations and communities both within Puerto Rican community and those in solidarity with the Puerto Rican people to organize and host events from September 2009 to September 2010 so that we may be able to achieve, once again, the freedom of our beloved compañeros.

Download event leaflets:

Jornada de Libertad campaign (front)

Jornada de Libertad campaign (back)

Crimen Contra la Humanidad (Festival de Teatro de Caguas)

National Tour Dates

Thursday, August 27th, 7pm
Detroit
Mexicantown Fiesta Center
4114 W Vernor Hwy

Friday, August 28th, 7pm
Cleveland
Spanish American Committee
4407 Lorain Ave

Saturday, August 29th, 8PM
Hartford
The Studio @ Billing Forge
563 Broad St.

Sunday, August 30th, 2PM
Leominster
Unitarian Universalist Church
15 West Street,

Tuesday, September 1st, 6-9pm
Boston
Villa Victoria Community Room at 100 West
Dedham St in the South End

Wednesday, September 2nd
Philadelphia
Location TBA

Thursday, September 3rd, 7PM
New York
Julia De Burgos Cultural Center
1680 Lexington Ave

Friday, September 4th, 7pm
Chicago
Batey Urbano
2620 W. Division

Friday September 11th
Caguas
Festival De Teatro De Caguas
Crimen Contra La Humanidad
Teatro Arcelay
Calle Acosta,Caguas

Saturday September 12th
Ponce
Tenerias, Ponce

31ro Festival de Teatro de Caguas

Viva la fuerte experiencia en la innovadora obra
Crimen Contra la Humanidad

Una obra basada en la vida de catorce presos políticios puertorriqueños dentro de las cárceles norteamericanas; dos de ellos aún encarcelados.

viernes 11  de septiembre – 7:00 p.m.
sábado 12 de septiembre – 8:30 p.m.
domingo 13 de septiembre –  4:00p.m.

Teatro Arcelay

Calle Acosta,Caguas
frente al centro de transportación pública

Entrada General $12.00
Compra de boletos en: reyespoetry.com
Reservación de boletos: reyespoetry@gmail.com

Chicago, Shakespeare, Batey Urbano and Crime Against Humanity

Lowell Fiet/Special for En Rojo
December 25 to 31, 2008
http://claridadpuertorico.com/content/view/403172/32/

José Pérez as Prisoner #10035Before reading this review, I recommend a visit to http://reyespoetry.com. You will immediately hear Michael Reyes reciting/performing his poems Would One Bullet End Hundreds of Years of White Supremacy followed by Who That…Now we can begin.

Prelude

This review raises a basic question: why put on, write, create theater if there is no necessity to investigate a social relationship? Theater is the most traditional art but also, because of its nature, most tactile, social and conducive to community. If the public at a theatrical event doesn’t become a community of interests—diverse, conflicting, congruent, but finally shared—then the work loses not only its social purpose, but also its aesthetic purpose. Crime against Humanity, a work about the lives of the Puerto Rican political prisoners in prison, written by the poet Michael Reyes and the ex-political prisoner Luis Rosa, and put on by Batey Urbano of Paseo Boricua in Chicago, is this type of necessary work.

But can such a work be art? Let’s compare: rarely do I leave the theater before the curtain goes down, especially if it has to do with my obsession for the works of Shakespeare. But in Chicago, in the luxurious Chicago Shakespeare Theater, after paying 75 dollars for a ticket, I left the theater at intermission to return through snow and ice to my hotel to get ready for my return to Puerto Rico early the following morning.

The production of Midsummer Night’s Dream, probably Shakespeare’s most popular comedy, originated in India, with a company of Indian and Sri Lankan actors who acted in English—the best-known lines to communicate the plot— and seven other Asian languages, all intermixed. The stage became a splendid acrobatic arena, with ropes for the actors to climb & hand on, cloth suspended like hammocks, a backdrop of bamboo stalks for the actors to climb, descend, drop and disappear, live Indian music, and a rainbow of elaborate costumes.

On paper, it would all seem enormously attractive. But, like much of the theater I see, both in Puerto Rico and elsewhere, the result was an absolutely conventional work, spoken, static, with no dramatic or social interest. It became a great frenzy, ultimately boring because it never found an essential connection, a sense of community and a shared space to tell the story of free love versus forced marriage. And can such a work—luxuriously produced in a magnificent professional theater—be art?

Batey Urbano

Luckily, Chicago has many theaters—professional, semi-professional, community and cultural—and in fact I went there to visit just one: the café-theater Batey Urbano, an extension of the Juan Antonio Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center— in Paseo Boricua on Division Street. This traditionally Puerto Rican community near Humboldt Park, with its huge Puerto Rican flags of steel 56 feet long, erected on Division Street to mark the entrance and exit, wears its Puerto Rican-ness as a psychological and cultural-community armor to confront the precariousness of U.S. urban life. In spite of ethno-racial and linguistic prejudices, economic inequality, gang warfare, inadequate schools, unemployment, criminality, drugs and generalized violence, the validity of the idea of “being patriotic” [hacer patria] is alive and well in this community in ways that, in many cases, almost seem to have disappeared here in Puerto Rico. The Cultural Center bears the name of Juan Antonio Corretjer, the child care center is called Consuelo Lee Tapia, the alternative charter high school, Pedro Albizu Campos, functions within the Cultural Center, and the casita Don Pedro is located right across from the Batey Urbano, on the other side of Division Street.

The Batey Urbano is also a space of learning— its spaces include an internet radio station, a room for holding class and tutoring, a computer center for after school and the café-theater— which is only a block and a half from the Cultural Center. There among bodegas, restaurants, small cafés, bakeries and other Puerto Rican-Latino businesses, the red and yellow curtain of the Batey invites a principally young public to participate in music and hip hop poetry projects, creative editing, graphic arts, photography, journalism, community activism and theater.

The director and founder is Michael Anthony Reyes Benavides, a young “chicanorican” (Mexican-American with strong roots in the Puerto Rican community and culture) poet and playwright. The tone of his spoken-word poetry is immediately evident on hearing poems like Would One Bullet… and Who that… and his available collections include Would One Bullet End Hundreds of Years of White Supremacy: The Documented Assassination of President George W. Bush, Blood Dries Black: A poem about the life and death of Filiberto Ojeda Rios, Rebirth: Murals Etched in Poetry and My Voice.

These poems establish, in addition to the rhythm and pulsing energy, an agile and penetrating control of the language that U.S. English creates like a language with keys and reflections, local to Chicago and other communities as well as globalized to open up to the Caribbean and Latin America, Iraq and the Middle East, and to the political racism behind the current African genocides. Reyes’ poetical and theatrical work shows the influence of his teacher Tato Laviera (who worked at the Batey several years) and other New York poets such as Pedro Pietri, now deceased. But it seems to me that his political vision and his domination of electronic technology and media production— also seen in artists of dub and spoken-word poetry, rap, hip-hop and reggaetón– which makes for a more cutting, subversive style, accessible outside of its immediate context.

Crime against Humanity

Reyes co-wrote the theatrical work Crime Against Humanity with ex-political prisoner Luis Rosa. The work is based on interviews with the ex-Puerto Rican political prisoners, taped in Puerto Rico and the United States, and on interviews through letters with those still in prison, Oscar López Rivera and Carlos Alberto Torres. The authors have edited and polished the narrative of each segment or character, eliminating the names and assigning them the same number (#10035), focusing to the maximum possible on daily social conditions, survival strategies, the sense of time inside and of life passing outside of prison, and the treatment they receive at the hands of the guards and the prison administration. Everything is graphic, detailed, precise and personal: the body searches; inspections and resulting chaos in the cell and one’s personal property; time in solitary confinement; transfers from one prison to another, absence of contact with ones children while they grow; loss from distance from family and friends; different treatment for being “political;” being released and leaving behind other compañeros.

It also includes the small joys, real and imagined, of cooking, communicating with compañeros, writing and artistic creation, being able to help other prisoners, resisting and surviving. Although one can identify who is talking— that one is Dilcia [sic], that one is Elizam, that one Luis, that one Lucy, that one Ricardo—, the major point seems to be to create a collectivity of voices and experiences for a public that doesn’t necessarily know the prisoners. Each actor plays two or three characters, and the cast also plays the roles of the guards. (We were very fortunate to attend the play presented on November 25 and share with ex-prisoner Ricardo Jiménez.)

There is always caution with “political” works which, sometimes, depend on an inflated rhetoric to “preach to the choir” instead of representing real conditions and situations in complex contexts. In this case, the narratives and unipersonal acting don’t show “pamphleting” tendencies— a word frequently poorly used to limit the theatrical thematic instead of referring to the limited way of presentation— but rather the interiority of the prison experience as the personal stories of a political and anti-colonial national resistance.

With great precision and an admirable dramatic and emotional balance, the structure of the play juxtaposes abuses and acts of support, pain and happiness, great loss of time and artistic and human creativity, long, slow, calm, almost wordless narratives, and others short and violent that drip with screams, the desire to be free and the sadness of knowing that not everyone will be released. It thus communicates the specificities and human complexities of individual and collective survival in a way that never sounds like lines taken from Wikipedia.org.

The scenery is a simple cell. Each character— sometimes with guards— enters into this space to tell part of his/her life of being imprisoned over the years. Abuse, body searches— there is a strip search as a natural part of this dehumanizing process, and “inspections” and the prisoner’s careful re-establishing of order in this limited space— are all presented. The guards are depersonalized through the use of masks.

About thirty spectators attended the special, unannounced showing, and the play makes us a community of shared interests, permits a social relationship of exchange and conversation and “being patriotic” in involving ourselves in specific Puerto Rican processes and places, and, at the same time general and global, from the time Nelson Mandela was in prison, to the Puerto Rican and Cuban prisoners still in prison today, to Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the Congo.

The life of the work depends on the commitment, talent and discipline of the actors. Here the luxury is the richness of this group of youth– at 28 years old, writer and director Reyes is the oldest. Samuel Vega, Melissa Cintrón, José I. Pérez, Guadalis del Carmen and Michael Reyes offer mature, controlled, thoughtful and always convincing acting. That is because, in part, because they don’t try to represent or specifically imitate any particular prisoner, but rather to transmit their experience in the most authentic way possible. They are university students, poets, performers and community activists who, in their professional search, are committed to not leave behind their Puerto Rican identity. Their power to articulate thoughts and feelings on stage is also transferred to the social exchange with the public after the function. They act with the necessity to make ties and create communities of shared interests—the necessity to make theater, as it is said, with a purpose.

With a group so united it is difficult to distinguish any particular actor. However, the acting of Samuel Vega stands out on stage without taking away from the other members of the cast. Vega dominates English as well as Spanish, and, more important, demonstrates a corporal discipline that manages to communicate through a scenic language of presence, movement and expression that doesn’t need words as such.

Crime Against Humanity opened at Batey Urbano in Chicago in March of this year. It opened at Hostos Community College in New York on December 12, and from there went on tour throughout Latino communities in the United States. They performed at Taller Cé in Río Piedras last summer, and Reyes and his cast want to be able to present the work in Spanish in Puerto Rico the summer of 2009. Thanks to all of them for sharing their work and commitment. Special thanks to José Rivera for his photography and emails.

(In the next weeks I will publish the text of my interview with poet and director Michael Reyes.)

Jan Susler
People’s Law Office
1180 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60622
773/235-0070 x 118
jsusler@aol.com

Crime Against Humanity Returns to Chicago!

After performing to over 5000 people throughout the U.S. and Puerto Rico, Crime Against Humanity returns to its home venue in Chicago. The play has been featured in venues throughout the Midwest, the East Coast, and Puerto Rico. Crime Against Humanity, a National Boricua Human Rights Network and Teatro Batey Urbano production, begins a second Chicago run Friday February 6 at Batey Urbano (2620 W. Division) and will run every Friday and Saturday at 7pm throughout the month of February. Special addition! Urban Theater Company will be joining Teatro Batey cast members.  The play will also kick of its Midwest tour in March and is scheduled to return to New York, Puerto Rico, Philadelphia, Boston and Hartford for monthly runs in 2009.

The cast and crew of Crime against Humanity would like to truly thank every person that helped make 2008 east coast tour a success. We were happy to see so many people come out to the production at Hostos Center for Arts and Culture in the Bronx New York, Taller Puertorriqueño in Philadelphia, La Paloma Sabanera in Hartford, Lawrence Community Works in Lawrence MA, St. Andrew’s Coffee Shop in Boston, and The Freedom School in Albany.

We are confident that with our radio interviews, news coverage, printed articles and internet promotion we reached millions of people. Through this production we hoped to contribute like so many before us to the freedom of our political prisoners and in turn the freedom of our nation. The play is just one tool in that struggle.

We thank every the press, and all of the organizations that spread the word to their list serves and contact lists, as well as thank every individual that passed out flyers printed and placed posters. Also, we thank those that housed us, fed us and shared their homes, and their spaces with us and all those who attended our performances, some leaving a few dollars, others giving hundreds. We greatly appreciate every person that organized a performance in his or her city or town. Thank you to the venues and all of those that gave their time to make sure our tour was a success.

As we head toward 2009 we should remember that this year will mark the 10th anniversary of freedom for 11 of our former political prisoners. We hope the play is just one of many tools that will help us reflect on that victory and will help us focus on the great challenge ahead. We are asking that in the spirit of this historic year we find ways to remember and activate people in the spirit of justice, equality and freedom for our remaining political prisoners.

As part of our national campaign to free the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners we are asking that April 4, which is the 29th anniversary of their capture, be a day of commemoration. We would like organizations, individuals, and communities to hold an event in the spirit of resistance against US colonialism in Puerto Rico and for the release of the remaining Puerto Rican political prisoners. On behalf of Crime Against Humanity‘s cast and crew we hope to see yet another successful year toward the freedom of our prisoners.

Download Chicago Crime leaflet.

Crime Against Humanity at Columbia College

These photos were taken during the Columbia College show on October 16, 2008.


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Crime Against Humanity East Coast Tour

Friday, December 12, 7PM at Hostos College, 500 Grand Concourse Bronx, New York City (download leaflet)

Sunday, December 14, 4PM at Taller Puertorriqueño, 2557 North 5th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (download leaflet)

Tuesday, December 16, 7PM La Paloma Sabanera 406 Capital Ave, Hartford, CT (download leaflet)

Wednesday, December 17, 7PM at 60 Island Street, Lawrence,  Massachusetts (download leaflet)

Thursday, December 18, 7PM at 169 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, Boston, Massachusetts (download leaflet)

Friday, December 19, at 3361 6th Ave, Albany, New York (download leaflet)

Crime Against Humanity Fundraiser: July 18-20

Michael Reyes playing #10035The cast of Crime Against Humanity is holding three shows at Batey Urbano (2620 W Division Street) this weekend to raise money for their trip to Puerto Rico. Please support this amazing work. Tickets are $25 each. The schedule is as follows:

Friday, July 18, 7PM

Saturday, July 19, 7PM

Sunday, July 20, 2PM

Crime Against Humanity • Film by CAN-TV

Crime Against Humanity sponsored by Public Square, filmed by CAN-TV.