Last year I discovered a project on Kickstarter set up by the Theatre of the Oppressed in New York called "Concrete Justice", and it was to put out a book that chronicles the stories and histories of some of the homeless and former homeless in New York City through photos, poetry and art.
Here is a synopsis of what Theatre of the Oppressed do and what they are about, courtesy of their Facebook Page:
Theatre of the Oppressed NYC (TONYC) offers tools of popular theatre to individuals, communities and institutions in New York City facing situations of oppression, in order to incite transformative action.Also you can read the interview I did with Theatre of the Oppressed NY director Katy Rubin last year by CLICKING HERE
Theatre of the Oppressed NYC works with local communities including the homeless, immigrants, prisoners, teenagers and teachers to establish "popular theatre troupes" all over New York City. These ensembles create and tour original, interactive plays inspired by real‐life struggles, in order to engage peers in theatrical problem‐solving and incite transformative action.
The Theatre of the Oppressed is an interactive, physical and playful tool used to investigate situations in which we are denied our basic rights, personally and collectively. We use theatrical debate, through games and scenes, to uncover the many possible alternatives to real life challenges.
By imagining and rehearsing solutions together onstage, we prepare ourselves to take action offstage!
I received the book for being a funder recently and it's an incredible thing to look through. Reading the stories of these people that I don't know yet do know. As someone who was homeless for years, while I don't know these people specifically, I see familiarities in all their stories. In their photos, in their art. I remember people I've met, and things I've seen and experienced.
MORE AFTER THE BREAK
These stories are often humorous, often heartbreaking and always real. It's real life, it's real people and real stories told through their art. There were pieces in there that made me laugh at situations that I'd been in before. There were others that caused me to tear up. There were others that made me angry because much like some of the other pieces, I'd been through similar things or I'd seen those types of discrimination or persecution.
Homeless people are an open target for violence and discrimination. The stories over the last few years alone of not only the people who seek out homeless people to beat up, or rob of their few possessions, but even the various cities and states that pass laws designed to discriminate against the homeless communities. Anything to keep them out of sight, out of mind.
The Ostrich Syndrome will not solve the tremendous problem that this country has with poverty and income inequality and neither will the insensitive and outrageous actions of some of the lawmakers in this country. This book tells stories of what Jesus Christ referred to as "The Least of You". The easily ignored and kicked aside. The easily dismissed.
As I read through the stories and soaked in the tales of pain and redemption I began to realize something that I'd never really come across when reviewing something. I can't give this project a rating. And that's got nothing to do with the quality of this project because it's a 10 star project if I've ever seen one.
Ten people can read this and come away with ten different interpretations of the subtleties and aspects to the tales of life on the streets.
So while I'm not going to give a rating to this, I definitely give it my highest recommendation both for the book itself and for the organization that put it out. They are doing wonderful work and deserve to be spotlighted and have their goodness rewarded with success.
Of course their success is measured in different ways than most.
You can buy a copy of Concrete Justice by going to THIS LINK RIGHT HERE and buying it via their official website.
Below I've included a poem that I especially liked. I hope you do as well, and I know that some of my New York friends will especially be able to relate if my recollections of some of their angry words of the MTA are true.
M.T.A. (MOTHERFUCK THOSE ASSHOLES)BY MONK
WE'RE ON THE EXPRESS...TRAINS DON'T STOP ON THIS TRACK...SO HOW THE FUCK ARE WE DELAYED BECAUSE OF TRAIN TRAFFIC?
MASS TRANSIT MAY HAVE MANAGED TO MANGLE THE MINDS OF THE MASSES
WITH ASININE LAWS INTENDED TO HARASS US AND TURN INNOCENT PASSENGERS INTO CRIMINAL TRESPASSERS
BUT THEY CAN'T FOOL THE REST OF US
AS WE STEP INTO VESTIBULES FILLED WITH DRIED PISS, DROOL AND OTHER UNIDENTIFIABLE UTTERLY VILE EXCRETIONS, THE DELETION OF COMMON LINES CREATES A
DEPLETION OF PRECIOUS TIME
AND HONESTLY, RIGHT NOW, YOU'RE FUCKING WITH MINE.
SERVICE NOT WORTH TWO SHITS AND A DIME YET YOU EXPECT ME TO PAY TWO TWENTY-FIVE
I WILL DEFILE EVERY UNMONITORED TURNSTILE
ALL THE WHILE FLASHING EVERY BROKEN MONITOR WITH A SMILE.
I WILL DUCK AND DIVE BETWEEN POLES AND AISLES
AND IF A CHASE ENSUES I'D CHOOSE TO RUN FOR MILES
SO FUCK EVERY PIG WITH A BLUE RAYON CLIP ON
WHO FEELS I DIDN'T DESERVE AN OPEN CONTAINER TO SIP ON
OR WHO EXTINGUISHES THE FLAME WHEN I'M TRYING TO TURN THE CLIP ON
WHY DON'T YOU GO FIND SOME OTHER SPIC YOU COULD PICK ON?
I WILL TAKE YOUR QUOTA AND DAMAGE EVERY IOTA
OF IT'S YELLOW EXISTENCE AS A FORM OF CIVIL RESISTANCE
MY DISSIDENCE IS CONSISTENT WITH THE SYSTEM'S LACK OF ASSISTANCE
IN ANY AND ALL AREAS PERTAINING TO PAYING CITIZENS
IS WALKING BETWEEN CARS REALLY A REASON TO PUT ME BEHIND BARS?
DO I REALLY NEED TO BE THAT CONCERNED WITH THE SWINE FLU, TERRORISM AND SARS?
OR IS YOUR INTENTION TO KEEP MY ATTENTION ON ALL 911 SCARS
WHEN ALL I'M TRYING TO DO IS GET
PLASTERED BY ST. MARKS?
"TAKE THE SIX DOWN TO ASTOR" WAS THE RESPONSE WHEN I HAD ASKED HER
BUT SHE ACTED LIKE I WAS SOME INFECTIOUS RABID BASTARD
SO I FLASHED HER THE FINGER AND GRABBED ON MY SUSPICIOUS PACKAGE.
THEN WALKED IN A STATION THAT SMELLED LIKE AN AGING CABBAGE
BUT I WON'T HOLD ON TO THE BAGGAGE FROM THE FACT THIS PLATFORM IS RAVAGED
WITH TRASH AND THE RATS THAT HAVE IT
EVEN THOUGH I KNOW WE'VE ALL HAD IT UP TO HERE
THIS IS A POETIC CAMPAIGN FOR MY FELLOW STRAPHANGERS
SO CLAP OR SNAP YOUR FINGERS IF YOU IDENTIFY WITH MY ANGER.