By Jenan Jacobson
The play Blackberry Winter by Kai Elijah Hamilton brings together many issues relevant to the state of our society, blending aspects of Black Lives Matter and also the single-minded dedication—bordering on obsessiveness—of a mother whose child has gone missing. A woman who cannot get the support from the people around her, the character of Carolina is “a strong-willed African American mother” who seems to be the only person fighting in her own corner. Her position is a familiar one: a mother who is convinced deep in her bones that her child is still alive, even at the pressures from those around her telling her to give it up.
This is a remnant of the failures of the authorities to provide the proper support for someone in her situation—what happens when the Criminal Minds experts don’t find the kidnapper, when they leave and return to their normal, day to day lives. Unfortunately, for a mother who is in the throes of devastation, this is not a situation that she can easily extract herself from. And, as far as she can tell, there is nobody reaching out a helping hand.
We have all had these moments. Perhaps not as intensely felt as a mother who is desperate for the return of a lost child, but the experience of letting loose a cry for help that goes unanswered is common enough. Students on college campuses, advocating for reforms in the policies that deal with sexual assault, issues contained in Black Lives Matter that constantly come up against legal roadblocks, or mental illness that is written off as a cry for attention and brushed aside. We are a society that lets people fall through the cracks. We are failing those who need help, and therefore people are led to increasingly independent courses of action.
Not only does Blackberry Winter make us question the effectiveness of authority in dealing with cases that might prove challenging for them, or require more than their half-hearted provision of resources, but it also questions how victims are treated in these processes. We don’t know precisely what Carolina’s life has been like for the duration of her son’s disappearance, but we know she has not been provided with the resources to cope with it. Regardless of whatever means have been exhausted to try and find her child, her obsession surrounding it shows the poor coping strategies of someone whose psyche has been left to fester. This play reveals the chilling isolation encouraged by our refusal to properly dispense aid to those who need it. In addition to being strongly indicative of a problem in our society, the play is also deeply moving, psychological in the most compelling way, and constructed from strong characters with real voices.
Have you ever gone up against a problem, only to find the people who should be helping you are gone? Are there more ways our society is failing us, and can you think of ways to correct it? Please comment below!
Blackberry Winter will be performed as a part of the Strawberry One-Act Festival on July 16th (Saturday) at 1pm, July 17th (Sunday) at 5pm, and July 20th (Wednesday) at 7pm. The performance will take place at the Theatre at St. Clement’s at 423 West 46th Street, NYC, between 9th and 10th avenue. Tickets can be purchased online at www.therianttheatre.com.