The laugh tracks from the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Cosby Show” weren’t the only laughter in Kemper this past Monday, as Miranda Haymon ‘12 wove entertaining clips into her CAMD presentation, “The Evolution of the Black Thespian: Depictions of African Americans in the Post Civil Rights Era.”
Haymon said, “The objective of my CAMD scholar presentation was to find the connection between history and different types of media programs, whether [it] be during the 60’s, looking at Broadway [or] during the 90’s, looking at television.”
Haymon’s research centered on three different time periods, 1965 and 1975, 1985 and 1995, and 2000 to the present day, using examples of television shows and movies with a predominantly African-American cast that reflected events during these respective time periods.
Haymon particularly emphasized the importance of family portrayed in media, playing short clips of television shows like “The Cosby Show” or “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”.
“I know that it’s obvious that there are connections between what happens in history [and the media] because historical events do have an effect on TV…because they are directly related. So that was my main goal. Find a connection, try to make some sense of it, try to find a chain or a thread that I could weave through all of them, which ended up being family”, said Haymon.
Haymon said that selecting television and movie sources was the most challenging component of her research.
“There are so many different connections and so many different things and fibers I could have looked for. When I was researching, there were so many different things I could connect, so many different things I could have woven,” said Haymon.
“I had to stay on target, stay on track. I couldn’t, as much as wanted to, go learn as much as I could about it…because it’s a paper, I had to be concise.”
Haymon made the unusual choice to present three short skits at the end of her presentation, performed by Khalil Flemming ’12, Laz Nyamakazi ’13 and Elizabeth Oppong ’12, as a component to her CAMD presentation. CAMD presentations usually conclude with panels, guest speakers, or video screenings.
“Frankly, I’m a director. I love to direct… I do think that if I’m talking about theatre, that I should have a theatre component [to the presentation]. I need something that is not just a paper and some presentation,” said Haymon.
The first and second skits critiqued African-American stereotypes using satire.
“I need people to actually experience it and learn…theatre is one of the best ways to share [information]. Satire is a great way to hide stereotypes,” said Haymon.
The third skit was a mash-up of two speeches from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and from Robert Kennedy, which served to reflect on Dr. King’s assassination, and its role in United States history.
The fourth skit had portions of Langston Hughes poems, and the fifth featured quotes from sources that Haymon loved, but did not have time to include in her presentation.
“The purpose of the performance was that it showed the role…that African Americans are viewed/portrayed in the media…In terms of the speeches and poems that were [performed], I believe those were added because they predominantly spoke of dreams and hopes, which I believe are an integral part of MLK day,” wrote Nyamakazi, a performer, in an email to The Phillipian.
“Miranda first told me about her project during fall term and she asked me through email whether I was willing to volunteer with acting in her CAMD scholar presentation. She then organized a meeting between the actors and her and she told us about the logistics of everything and gave us the scripts.”
Oppong said, “Over time, we definitely tweaked the scenes but the meaning remained the same-we wanted to show the complexities of the portrayal of blacks in the media. I thought Miranda did well with her presentation-I appreciate that she really narrowed in on the evolution of the black family in the media.”
Haymon was inspired to pursue her CAMD project after her involvement with the Theater Department. She attributed her fascination with her topic to her love for theater and acting.
“I’m a huge theatre geek and I look at television shows and look at movies and I’m like, ‘why did they do this? Why is this happening?’ because I think like a theater kid. I’m at the point where I’m a senior in high school and I’ve done all these different theatre things and now what? I love theater; I’m a theater geek, what does that mean? I wanted to sort of take a step back from that [being a theater geek] and go right next to trying to show what’s to come of the future [through my presentation],” said Haymon.
Haymon was the third of four CAMD scholars to present her research this year as part of the CAMD scholars program.