Crown Heights (with Fred Newman)

 Hassidic Youth (l to r) Nichole Quiñones, Caleb Farmer, Vanessa Emmanuel African American Youth (l to r) Dennis Johnson, Richard Ibyn, Donique Banks Crown Heights, Castillo Theatre, January 2004 Photo: Ronald L. Glassman

Hassidic Youth (l to r) Nichole Quiñones, Caleb Farmer, Vanessa Emmanuel
African American Youth (l to r) Dennis Johnson, Richard Ibyn, Donique Banks
Crown Heights, Castillo Theatre, January 2004
Photo: Ronald L. Glassman

Crown Heights

By Dan Friedman and Fred Newman

[+DOWNLOAD]

 

Cast of Characters

ACTOR
JEWISH CHORUS
BLACK CHORUS
RABBI MEYERSON
SECURITY M A N #1
SECURITY M A N #2
BYSTANDER #1
BYSTANDER #2
BYSTANDER #3
BYSTANDER #4
YOHUDA R.
TYNELL
BLACK FRIEND # 1
BLACK FRIEND #2
ONE VOICE IN BLACK CHORUS
JEWISH FRIEND #1
JEWISH FRIEND #2
STELLA HOROWITZ

 

Prologue

Hello. My name is [NAME OF ACTOR]. I’m an actor in this play and [STUDENT AT… OR JOB], I live in [NEIGHBORHOOD AND BOROUGH]. The play you are about to see is community theatre, New York City community theatre, theatre for everyone in the city. It is a play about New York, created by ordinary New Yorkers. It is not a play written by Westchester or Connecticut-based journalists about city police officers who live on Long Island. It is play by ordinary New Yorkers—Puerto Rican, Black, Jewish, Italian, Dominican, West Indian, Korean, you name it, gay and straight, women and men. All of them are New Yorkers. Ordinary people who, seven days a week, 24hours a day, make this city happen. It is not West Side Story or Rent or Avenue Q. It is not commercial TV, not “Sex in the City” or “Friends” or “The King of Queens.” No, it is, all and all, a community play created by and for diverse and ordinary people, young and old, who over the last 20 years have remade this city. It is a play about our loves and hates, but most of all it’s about our lives. It does not pretend to have artistic distance. The people who created it are New Yorkers through and through and have no distance at all. It is a New York community play in form as well, by which I mean it is not neat and tidy. It jumps all over the place. It is part an avant-garde play, with choruses and rappers and dancers. It is part video documentary, and it is part prison soap opera. These are art forms that New Yorkers know about, directly or indirectly. And if we don’t always understand what we’re looking at, we always find a way to deal with it, if you know what I’m saying. This play is produced by Youth Onstage! and the Castillo Theatre, which together with the All Stars Talent Show Network and Five Points Productions create Theatre for the Whole City.

So New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike, enjoy this piece of New York fiction. It is probably closer to the truth than what is sometimes labeled New York reality.


Act I, Scene 1

JEWISH CHORUS: It was an accident. A terrible accident. A tragic accident.

BLACK CHORUS: (Raps) 
These are the facts and
These are the stats.

These are the facts and
These are the stats.

These are the facts and
These are the stats.

There’s nothing you can say
‘Cause these are the facts.

VARIOUS RAPPERS: 
Crown Heights, Brooklyn, USA, 
A child playing on the sidewalk in the middle of the day.

Raheem Evans at the age seven years old, 
Playing on the sidewalk, now his body growing cold.

Rabbi’s motorcade came speeding down the streets, 
Jumped the curb, knocked Raheem off his feet.

Rabbi’s motorcade left a little boy dead. 
Jumped the curb and crushed this child’s head.

There’s a Black boy bleeding as the ambulance come. 
There’s a Black boy bleeding as the Rabbi just run.

There’s a Black boy bleeding as the ambulance come. 
There’s a Black boy bleeding as the Rabbi just run.

SOLO RAPPER: 
There a Black boy bleeding
Had no business leaving the scene, know what I mean
If you were me how would a Jew seem
Different to your eyes, surprised, I’m tellin’ no lies
On the sidewalk, he didn’t get up, he didn’t rise
At the age of seven his body grew cold
Now the truth is told, behold, the story unfolds
A child playing, laying, a motorcade slaying
I’m sayin’, not a word said, moved ahead, after bloodshed

VARIOUS RAPPERS: 
A Black boy bleeding as the ambulance come. 
There’s a Black boy bleeding as the Rabbi just run.

There’s a Black boy bleeding as the ambulance come.
There’s a Black boy bleeding as the Rabbi just run.

You see the Jewish medics came to take the Jews away
And left this little boy dying on Eastern Parkway

BLACK CHORUS: 
These are the facts and
These are the stats.

These are the facts and
These are the stats.

These are the facts and
These are the stats.

There’s nothing you can say,
‘Cause these are the facts.

JEWISH CHORUS: A tragic accident.

BLACK CHORUS: Caused by the recklessness of Rabbi Meyerson’s driver. Raheem dead; his cousin Tara pinned between the bumper and the wall of an apartment building, whimpering for help.

JEWISH CHORUS: They were on their way back from the cemetery where every week Rabbi Meyerson went to visit the grave of his spiritual predecessor, to honor the dead.

BLACK CHORUS: And on his way back from the cemetery, he killed.

JEWISH CHORUS: Rabbi Meyerson did not kill!

BLACK CHORUS: His driver did.

JEWISH CHORUS: The car went out of control.

BLACK CHORUS: Rabbi Meyerson’s motorcade often sped through the streets of Crown Heights, a neighborhood shared by Blacks and Hasidic Jews, sometimes with a police escort. Rabbi Meyerson, the Rebbe, as the Jews called him, was a big shot, a Jewish big shot, a white big shot. Raheem Evans and his cousin weren’t big shots, they were just two little kids. Two little Black kids.

JEWISH CHORUS: Let us show you what happened.

(Members of the JEWISH CHORUS take the roles of RABBI MEYERSON, SECURITY MAN #1 and SECURITY MAN #2. The SECURITY MEN carry walkie-talkies.)

SECURITY MAN #1: Are you okay, Rebbe?

MEYERSON: Yes. I think so. But the children…

SECURITY MAN #2: Yes, Rebbe, there appear to be two children hurt.

MEYERSON: This is terrible.

SECURITY MAN #1: Your driver, Yoseph, his head went through the windshield. Thanks to God you’re okay.

MEYERSON: Have you called an ambulance?

SECURITY MAN #2: Yes, an ambulance is on the way. The police have been notified.

MEYERSON: What can we do for the children?

SECURITY MAN #1: Nothing, Rebbe, we can do nothing.

(The BLACK CHORUS slowly surrounds MEYERSON and the SECURITY MEN. Members of the BLACK CHORUS take the roles of various bystanders.)

BYSTANDER #1: Oh my God, my God, these babies are dying! Merciful Jesus, save these babies!

BYSTANDER #2: The Jews ran them over.

BYSTANDER #3: That’s their Rebbe; he ran over these kids!

SECURITY MAN #1: Rebbe, we have to get you out of here. There’s a car waiting at the corner.

MEYERSON: I can’t leave. Not until the ambulance gets here.

SECURITY MAN #2: There’s nothing you can do for the injured, Rebbe. Come.

MEYERSON: No, I can’t leave now.

SECURITY MAN #1: Rebbe, it’s not safe! These people are angry.

BYSTANDER #1: There’s a car here for the rabbi.

BYSTANDER #2: What about these children? That child’s head is crushed.

BYSTANDER #3: Look at them! Do they care about Black children?

BYSTANDER #4: (Shouting) An ambulance! Here comes an ambulance!

SECURITY MAN #1: (Listening on walkie-talkie) They’ve put Yoseph in the ambulance.

MEYERSON: And the children?

SECURITY MAN #2: There’s no room, Rebbe.

MEYERSON: No room? What can that mean? How can there be no room?

SECURITY MAN #1: Time. It’s time, Rebbe. We need to get out of here fast. This crowd might riot.

BYSTANDER #2: It’s HOTZOLOH, their Jew ambulance. It’s only taking the Jew driver.

BYSTANDER #3: They’re leaving the children, those dirty Jews!

SECURITY MAN #2: A city ambulance is on the way for the children.

MEYERSON: But that little girl is pinned against the wall.

SECURITY MAN #1: Exactly. We can’t move her. She needs an emergency medical crew.

MEYERSON: But we have an emergency medical crew!

SECURITY MAN #2: Yes, and they have Yoseph on the way to the hospital.

MEYERSON: They’ve left?

SECURITY MAN #1: Yes, Rebbe, and we have to leave too. Now.

BYSTANDER #2: The ambulance left! The Jews left our children to die!

BYSTANDER #1: I can’t believe it!

BYSTANDER #3: Believe it! That’s how they are. These dirty Jews care only for their own.

BYSTANDER #4: Death to the Jews!

(The two SECURITY MEN take MEYERSON by either arm.)

SECURITY MAN #2: We have to go. These people want to kill you.

MEYERSON: (Allowing himself to be led away) But the children…

(MEYERSON and the two SECURITY MEN step back into the JEWISH CHORUS.)

JEWISH CHORUS: That’s what happened.

BLACK CHORUS: Rabbi Meyerson left Raheem Evans under the wheels of his car and Tara Evans pinned to the wall.

JEWISH CHORUS: Rabbi Meyerson had to flee an angry mob. It wasn’t safe.

BLACK CHORUS: (Sings) 
No, it’s not safe. 
It’s not safe to be a Black child, 
Playing on the sidewalk. 
Not safe, not safe at all.

Raheem Evans, seven years old. 
(Not safe, not safe at all) 
Born in Guyana, South America. 
(Not safe, not safe at all)

Dead in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. 
Playing with his cousin
On a Sunday afternoon. 
(Not safe, not safe at all)

Died in a pool Of his own blood. 
Waiting for an ambulance. 
Not safe, not safe at all.

JEWISH CHORUS: A tragic accident.

(YOHUDA steps out of the JEWISH CHORUS.)

YOHUDA: Yes, a tragic accident. And something else, something worse.

JEWISH CHORUS: Worse than a little boy dead? Worse than Blacks in the streets screaming for the death of Jews?

YOHUDA: Yes.

JEWISH CHORUS: What something else? What something worse? YOHUDA: It’s hard for me to say it out loud. JEWISH CHORUS: We’re your friends. We’ve grown up together. What’s so terrible that you can’t say it out loud to us?

YOHUDA: I’ve never heard what I am thinking said out loud by a Hasid. We never doubt the Rebbe.

JEWISH CHORUS: Doubt the Rebbe? What are you talking about?

YOHUDA: I’m talking about a terrible pain in here (indicates his heart). A pain caused by this accident and caused by theRebbe.

JEWISH CHORUS: Caused by the Rebbe? How can you say that?

YOHUDA: It’s not easy to say. If you don’t want to hear it, I’ll remain silent.

JEWISH CHORUS: We don’t want to hear it. But we will. You’re our friend. Give us your pain, share it with your friends.

YOHUDA: The Rebbe should never have left the scene of the accident. A child was dying. He should not have left.

JEWISH CHORUS: But the Blacks, the mob, he was in danger.

YOHUDA: Yes, he was. And still he should have stayed. Some things are more important than safety.

JEWISH CHORUS: But he is the Rebbe, our leader. What would we, his community, have done if he was hurt, or God forbid, killed?

YOHUDA: If he had stayed the crowd would have been less angry. He could have talked with them. He could have comforted the parents. He is a man of God, he could have helped. Instead…

JEWISH CHORUS: Instead what?

YOHUDA: We walk the same streets — the Blacks and us — yet we live in different worlds. When the Rebbe left it was like taking arusty knife and slicing into a fresh wound.

JEWISH CHORUS: You have a good heart, Yohuda, but you are naive. Those Blacks would not listen to our Rebbe. They hate him. They hate us. They laugh at us as we walk past them.

YOHUDA: You think I don’t know that?

JEWISH CHORUS: If you know it, then what are you talking about?

YOHUDA: (Sings) 
What? 
What am I talking about? 
What? 
About living, 
Living the teachings. 
About trying
To live what our fathers taught.

What? 
What am I talking about? 
What? 
About working, 
Working to bring the Messiah. 
About completing
The work of the Almighty.

What? 
What am I talking about? 
What? About healing, 
Healing the wounds of the world. 
About the Rebbe
Finding courage from those who came before.

What? 
What am I talking about? 
What? 
About living, 
Living the teachings. 
About trying
To live what our fathers taught.

JEWISH CHORUS: It’s the Rebbe’s first duty to preserve Jewish life. He has a responsibility to his Hasids. He can’t throw his life away.

YOHUDA: If he had stayed and, God forbid, been hurt, at least he would have remained the Rebbe.

JEWISH CHORUS: Remained the Rebbe! He has remained the Rebbe; he will always be the Rebbe.

YOHUDA: I don’t know how to call a man Rebbe, to call him teacher, when he runs from a dying child.

JEWISH CHORUS: Such talk! Yohuda, may God forgive you.

BLACK CHORUS: (Sings) 
The police descend
Like an occupying army. 
The police descend
On our community.

The police descend
Like an occupying army. 
The police descend
On our community.

SOLO RAPPER: (Raps) 
Bloated pink faces, in many places, Racist
Twisted thin lips, smirks and sneers
Fat bellies overlapping thick belts and underwears
Pullin’, draggin’ from the weight of the gun
Itchy trigger finger if you even think to run
A reminder of the power in the tower
Of jails, no bails
Devouring lives, and reform fails
Reminding, law and order, bread and water
White law and order stealing Black sons and daughters
Bloated pink faces, in many places, Racist
Twisted thin lips, smirks and sneers
Fat bellies overlappin’ thick belts and underwears
Always a memory to keep in mind
Because the itchy trigger finger’s running out of time
A reminder, bloated pink faces, thin lips twisted
Insistent on the gain of a Black child
Twisted thin lips reminding bloated pink faces
Gaining the life of a Black child.

BLACK CHORUS: (Sings) 
They’re here to remind us
That the life of a Black child
The life of a Black child
Means nothing. 
Means nothing
In the white rooms
Where pale men hold power. 
Means nothing
In the white rooms
Where pale men hold power.

(TYNELL steps out of the BLACK CHORUS.)

TYNELL: What can we do about it?

BLACK CHORUS: We can kick ass, that’s what. It’s throw down time in Crown Heights.

TYNELL: I hear that. But who’s gonna thrown down who? They got the guns.

BLACK CHORUS: We got the numbers.

TYNELL: Which means what? That we’ll have more dead to bury?

BLACK CHORUS: Yo, Tynell, what you saying? You scared of these tubs of cracker lard?

TYNELL: Of course I’m scared. And so are you. A bullet will kill you, same as me.

BLACK CHORUS: What are we supposed to do? Bow our heads and pray on Sunday? Thank the cops for letting the Jews get away with Raheem Evans’ death?

TYNELL: I don’t know what to do. What I’m asking is this: What can we do to change things so that it can’t happen again?

BLACK CHORUS: Smack ’em upside the head. It’s the only thing they understand.

TYNELL: Seems to me that violence might be the only thing we understand.

BLACK CHORUS: What’s that supposed to mean?

TYNELL: It means getting angry isn’t enough.

BLACK CHORUS: We got good reason to be angry.

TYNELL: Sure we got good reason. So what? You’re angry. I’m angry. All of Black America is angry. That don’t change anything.

BLACK CHORUS: We need our anger. We’re warriors.

TYNELL: Warriors without guns. Fighters without tactics. What does it get us?

BLACK CHORUS: It’ll get us revenge.

TYNELL: It’s always Black bodies that get carried away. For those left alive, nothing changes.

BLACK CHORUS: Maybe this time some Jewish bodies should be carried away. Maybe then something will change.

TYNELL: How you going to get through a wall of cops?

BLACK CHORUS: Any way we can.

(FRIEND #1 steps out of the BLACK CHORUS.)

FRIEND #1: Tynell, I’m out here on the street. Do you have my back?

TYNELL: Of course I have your back.

(TYNELL and FRIEND #1 step back into the BLACK CHORUS. The following exchange between the choruses is sung.)

JEWISH CHORUS: 
Listen to it howl – the mob.

BLACK CHORUS:
Look at them, the Jews.
Smug and safe behind the lines of blue.

JEWISH CHORUS:
It reminds us of stories told by our parents, 
Stories told by our grandparents.

BLACK CHORUS:
They can get away with murder,
Protected by the law which says,
“White is right, but if you’re Black, get back.”
Look at them, the Jews.
Smug and safe in their white skins.

JEWISH CHORUS:
It reminds us of stories of the Jew-haters,
Of the pogroms
When the Poles,
The Cossacks,
The Russians,
The Ukrainians,
The Lithuanians,
The Romanians,
The Germans,
And now, the Blacks,
Come sweeping in, killing, raping, burning.
“Kill the Jews!”

BLACK CHORUS:
This reminds us of stories told by our parents,
Stories told by our grandparents,
Stories of the Klan, the cops, the courts.
Lynching,
Castration,
Rape.
White killers protected by white cops.

JEWISH CHORUS:
Listen to it howl –
The mob,
The beast,

JEWISH AND BLACK CHORUS:
Our past and future
Our past and future nightmare.

(YOHUDA steps out of the JEWISH CHORUS.)

YOHUDA: But it’s not a pogrom.

JEWISH CHORUS: Mobs howling in the streets, hungry for Jewish blood.

YOHUDA: They’re hungry for justice.

BLACK CHORUS: Justice!

ONE VOICE IN BLACK CHORUS: Death to the Jews!

BLACK CHORUS: Justice!

ONE VOICE IN BLACK CHORUS: An eye for an eye!

JEWISH CHORUS: Justice? You call “Kill the Jews!” justice? That’s not justice, Yohuda, that’s anti-Semitism, that’s Jew-hating.

YOHUDA: One of their children has been killed. The ambulance, our ambulance, left him to die.

JEWISH CHORUS: There is always some excuse to kill Jews.

YOHUDA: There is always some excuse to turn our backs.

JEWISH CHORUS: Yohuda, what are you saying we should do?

YOHUDA: I don’t know. But I know we need to do something other than hiding behind these walls of cops.

JEWISH CHORUS: Yohuda, look at the anger in those faces. Look at the hatred. There is no reasoning with that. No handshakes, no high fives, no smiles. There are only fists and knives and guns in those faces.

YOHUDA: Look at our own faces. Impenetrable, cold, fearful. What do we look like to them?

JEWISH CHORUS: We look like everything they hate. We are Jews.

BLACK CHORUS: Justice!

ONE VOICE IN BLACK CHORUS: Death to the Jews!

BLACK CHORUS: Justice!

ONE VOICE IN BLACK CHORUS: An eye for an eye!

(TYNELL steps from the BLACK CHORUS.)

BLACK CHORUS: Where are you going, Tynell?

TYNELL: I don’t know.

BLACK CHORUS: What’s bothering you, Tynell?

TYNELL: (Sings) 
It’s all bothering me. 
The dead, the living. 
The yelling, the hate. 
The heat, the crowd.

It’s all bothering me. 
Being young, being angry. 
Confused, abused. 
It’s all bothering me.

But most of all, I don’t like being caged in. 
No way out, no way around it. 
I don’t like being trapped and surrounded.

Hundreds and hundreds
Bleating like sheep to the slaughter
Surrounded by
Cops with itchy trigger fingers.

It’s all bothering me. 
The dead, the living.

BLACK CHORUS: Here is where we take our stand.

TYNELL: I’m going for a walk.

BLACK CHORUS: It’s dangerous out there.

TYNELL: This neighborhood is ours. It’s mine. I won’t give it up to the cops. I won’t accept that it’s a crime to walk the streets of Crown Heights if you’re young and Black.

(BLACK FRIEND #1 and BLACK FRIEND #2 step out of the BLACK CHORUS.)

BLACK FRIENDS #1 AND #2: We’ll go with you. It’s just not safe to walk the streets alone tonight. No home boy should be alone in this,our home.

BLACK FRIEND #2: (Handing TYNELL a knife) Here, Tynell, take this. I don’t trust myself with this tonight. I get too angry.

TYNELL: I don’t want a knife. I don’t want to hurt anyone.

BLACK FRIEND #2: Yeah, I know. That’s why you should have it. I don’t trust myself.

TYNELL: (Putting knife in pocket) Okay, André, whatever.

JEWISH CHORUS: Here in Brooklyn. In America. We want to be left alone. We are Jews, just like our ancestors. And just like ourancestors we want to be left alone to worship God. Why do they follow us everywhere screaming for Jewish blood?

YOHUDA: (Indicating the BLACK CHORUS)They do not follow us. They were here when we got here.

JEWISH CHORUS: They moved into our neighborhood.

YOHUDA: We moved into their country. It wasn’t these people, Black people who forced us into gas chambers. It is white Europe which has slaughtered us for so long.

JEWISH CHORUS: Well the Blacks have learned well from the whites. Hatred is easy to learn.

YOHUDA: Yes, hatred is easy to learn. We have learned fast too. Just off the boat our parents and grandparents learned how easy itis to hate the Blacks.

JEWISH CHORUS: We do not hate. We are Jews. We follow the commandments.

(YOHUDA puts his hands over his ears.)

What are you doing, Yohuda?

YOHUDA: I can’t stand hypocrisy.

(YOHUDA takes a step away from the JEWISH CHORUS.)

JEWISH CHORUS: Where are you going, Yohuda?

YOHUDA: I’m going for a walk

JEWISH CHORUS: It’s dangerous out there.

YOHUDA: This is my neighborhood. I won’t give it up mobs or to
cops. I’m going to the grocery store.

JEWISH CHORUS: Don’t go looking for trouble.

YOHUDA: I’m looking for a loaf of bread.

JEWISH CHORUS: The Jew-haters won’t spare you because your heart bleeds for their dead child. 

(JEWISH FRIEND #1 and JEWISH FRIEND #2 step out of the JEWISH CHORUS.)

JEWISH FRIENDS #1 AND #2: We’ll go with you. It’s not safe for a Jew to buy a loaf of bread tonight. 

(TYNELL and his friends encounter YOHUDA and his friends.)

BLACK FRIEND #1: (To YOHUDA) Yo, what you think you’re doing?

YOHUDA: What?

BLACK FRIEND #1: I said, what you think you’re doing?

YOHUDA: I’m not doing anything.

BLACK FRIEND #2: Bullshit.

YOHUDA: Nothing that should concern you.

BLACK FRIEND #2: Not concern us? Why shouldn’t it concern us? We live in this neighborhood.

JEWISH FRIEND #1: So do we! So back off.

BLACK FRIEND #2: Who you telling to back off, Jew-boy?

TYNELL: Hey, André, chill.

BLACK FRIEND #2: Chill? Why should I chill? These guys getting all up in our face.

YOHUDA: We’re going to the store. We’re not looking for any trouble.

BLACK FRIEND #1: Walking around on a night like this, and you ain’t looking for trouble?

BLACK FRIEND #2: Trouble be looking for you.

YOHUDA: I guess that’s right.

BLACK FRIEND #2: You guess that’s right? You being a wise ass?

JEWISH FRIEND #1: Just get out of our way.

BLACK FRIEND #2: What you going to do if we don’t? Get your Rebbe to run us over in his limo?

JEWISH FRIEND #2: You shut the fuck up! (JEWISH FRIEND #2 lunges at TYNELL and BLACK FRIENDS. YOHUDA and JEWISH FRIEND #1 restrain him.)

BLACK FRIEND #2: You gonna make me, kike?

YOHUDA: No fights. We’re just going to the store.

BLACK FRIEND #1: Go home. It ain’t safe for baby-killers tonight.

YOHUDA: We’re going to the store.

BLACK FRIEND #2: You’re going to hell, Jew.

JEWISH FRIEND #2: Fuck you, you stupid nigger! (JEWISH FRIEND #2 breaks free and starts pounding on BLACK FRIEND #2 who starts to go down under the insistent pounding.)

BLACK FRIEND #2: Tynell, the knife. I can’t stop him. The knife. (TYNELL , taking out the knife, rushes to help his friend.)

BLACK FRIEND #2: Take him out, man. Take him out.

(YOHUDA and JEWISH FRIEND #1 rush forward in an attempt to stop the fight. TYNELLis holding the knife. YOHUDAruns into it, is stabbed, collapes. The fight stops.)

TYNELL: Oh my God!

BLACK FRIEND #1: Oh shit!

BLACK FRIEND #2: It’s okay. Stay cool, man.

JEWISH FRIEND #1: Yohuda, you okay?

(YOHUDA can’t speak. The Black youth start to back away.) 

JEWISH FRIEND #2: They stabbed him. Those niggers stabbed him.

JEWISH FRIEND #1: He’s dead. Yohuda is dead.

(The two JEWISH FRIENDS carry YOHUDA to the JEWISH CHORUS.) 

JEWISH FRIEND #2: Here is Yohuda. You warned him. The Blacks killed him.

JEWISH CHORUS: (Sings)
Jewish blood, 
Is flowing again. 
Jews cut down, 
On the streets again. 
Again, a pogrom, 
The killing of Jews
Again, the slaughter. 
Crown Heights, Brooklyn – a pogrom in America. 
Crown Heights, Brooklyn – no haven in America.
Jewish blood, 
Jewish blood is flowing again.

(The JEWISH CHORUS begins to chant the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. The two BLACK FRIENDS drag TYNELL, whose legs keep collapsing, to the BLACK CHORUS.)

BLACK FRIEND #1: He stabbed a Jew. BLACK FRIEND #2: He has avenged Raheem Evans! TYNELL: I didn’t mean to kill him. BLACK 

CHORUS: This is not what we need. BLACK FRIEND #1: Tynell is our proud Black warrior! TYNELL: It was an accident.

BLACK CHORUS: Now the cops will be hungry to kill.

BLACK FRIEND #2: An eye for an eye!

BLACK CHORUS: Now we will all be called criminals.

BLACK FRIEND #1: Isn’t this what we wanted? One of them for one of us.

BLACK CHORUS: Tynell, now you will spend the rest of your life in prison.

(TYNELL falls to his knees.)

BLACK FRIENDS #1 AND #2: No!

BLACK CHORUS: Slavery has many names. One of them is the criminal justice system.

(Sings)
Slavery has many names, 
Death many faces. 
So many are gone, 
So many empty places.

Black men locked away. 
So many lives spent dying. 
So many are gone, 
So many left crying.

They trapped us again; 
Caught every way we turn. 
Tynell is lost, 
When will we ever learn?

Slavery has many names, 
Death many faces. 
So many are gone, 
So many empty places.


Act II

Video Documentary

Consists of a series of interviews with political and community leaders who were involved in the response to the disturbancesin Crown Heights, Brooklyn in 1991.

 

Act III, Scene 1

The characters are MRS. HOROWITZ, a middle-aged Jewish social worker, and TYNELL, a young African American man accused of killing a Jewish rabbinical student in Crown Heights. The setting is a jail cell, where the young man is being held in detention. The social worker is permitted in prison to work with the prisoners.MRS. HOROWITZ: I’m Mrs. Horowitz. And I’ve been assigned to be your social worker.

TYNELL: I didn’t ask for no social worker.

MRS. HOROWITZ: All youths indicted on criminal charges get a social worker automatically.

TYNELL: Well, I don’t need no social worker. (Pause.)

MRS. HOROWITZ: Could we just talk a little?

TYNELL: I told my story to the cops.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I’m not a cop.

TYNELL: No, but you work for ’em.

MRS. HOROWITZ: No, I don’t. I work for the Bureau of Child Welfare.

TYNELL: I’m not a child.

MRS. HOROWITZ: It’s just the name of the agency.

TYNELL: Well, I don’t like your fucking agency. All you do is take Black kids away from their parents. You think I’m too stupid toknow who you are?

MRS. HOROWITZ: We’ve made a lot of mistakes of that kind. You’re right. But we also do some worthwhile things.

TYNELL: What? Like rehabilitating Jew killers?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Are you a Jew killer?

TYNELL: There you go — acting like a cop. I didn’t say I was a Jew killer. But that’s what they say.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I don’t care what they say. What do you say?

TYNELL: Oh, yeah, you don’t care what they say. But you’re not facing life imprisonment.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Maybe I can be of help. Seems to me you need all the help you can get.

(Pause.)

TYNELL: What you say your name was?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Horowitz. Stella Horowitz.

TYNELL: Ain’t that a Jewish name? You a Jew?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Yes, I’m Jewish.

TYNELL: You mean they gave the Jew killer a Jewish lady social worker? That’s just like them.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Just like who?

TYNELL: Just like the Jews who run this whole city. Who like to humiliate Blacks. Who like to make us feel like trash. So they send the Jew killer a Jew lady social worker. Ain’t there no Black social workers? Can’t Blacks get a job at your agency?(Sarcastically.) Wouldn’t a Black social worker better understand the nigger mind?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I volunteered for this case.

TYNELL: See that — I’m just a case.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I’m sorry. You’re right. I volunteered to work with you.
TYNELL: Didn’t nobody else want to?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Pretty much, nobody else wanted to.

TYNELL: Why’d you volunteer, Jew lady?

MRS. HOROWITZ: From the things I read in the paper about you, you didn’t seem like a bad person to me. You didn’t seem like youhated people, even Jews.

TYNELL: You got that readin’ those articles? In those Jew-owned newspapers? What are you — some leftover Jewish liberal from the ’60s still tryin’ to prove you’re a good person by helpin’ out poor niggers? Is that who you are, Jew lady?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I wish you’d stop calling me Jew lady.

TYNELL: Why is that? I could tell you’re a lady and you said you were a Jew. So how come you ain’t proud to be called Jew lady? Hey, feel free to call me Black dude. I ain’t ashamed of bein’ a Black dude. How come you don’t like me calling you a Jew lady?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I don’t like the way you say it.

TYNELL: How do I say it?

MRS. HOROWITZ: You say it like you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. You say it like a stupid asshole. You say it likeJew means everyone and everything that’s ever hurt you. Well, I’m a Jew, and I ain’t never hurt you.

TYNELL: Oh, that’s nice. So you can be a tough guy, too.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I’m not so tough. But I’m tough enough.

TYNELL: What do you want to talk about?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I want to talk about you.

TYNELL: There ain’t much to say about me. Born and raised in Bed- Stuy. Moved to the Heights about three years ago. Usual Blackbroken home. My dad’s been in jail my whole life. My mom’s a good woman. She cleans houses for Jews in Brooklyn Heights.Whoops! I’m sorry. For people who live in Brooklyn Heights. (Pause.) A lot of them happen to be Jewish. Dropped out of school when I was 16. I got two kid sisters, five and seven. Not much of a story. Just the usual Black bullshit.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Use a lot of drugs?

TYNELL: No, I never really did. Smoke some weed. But I never really got into the drug or gang scene. Mainly I played ball and tookcare of my baby sisters. When I dropped out of school I got a job pushing a rack in mid-town. Like I say, not much of a story.Not even a real super Black victim story. Pretty ordinary kid.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Sounds like you love those baby sisters of yours.

TYNELL: You got that right. They’re what counts to me.

MRS. HOROWITZ: You any good at basketball?

TYNELL: Oh, not really. Good enough to be fifth man in a pick up game. But not scholarship material. No — not really that bright
— not all that good as an athlete — no gang conversion — no drugs. Not a super nigger at all. Lady social worker, you gotyourself an ordinary kid on your hands. Just an ordinary Black kid. You might not believe this from readin’ the paper, but myneighborhood is full of them. Ordinary Black kids.

MRS. HOROWITZ: So how did an ordinary Black kid like yourself make it to the front pages? What happened? How come you carry a knife?

TYNELL: Would you believe it? It wasn’t my knife. It was my friend André’s knife. He asked me to hold it for him, ’cause he wasafraid he might get in trouble out there with all the crowds — and the cops. André always thought of me as the cool guy. I was the one who never lost my cool. Well, look at me now. André’s walkin’ the streets free as a bird. And they’re gonna throw away the key on me. Now ain’t that a bitch? How do you explain that, lady social worker?

MRS. HOROWITZ: It happens a lot. The real killers take better care not to get caught. So they stay on the streets for a long time. Theprisons are filled with young men and women who went from being ordinary kids to being killers in a split second. Something happened. Something snapped. Riots in the streets at CrownHeights. You don’t need to be a bad kid to wind up a killer in that context. André knew how to protect himself. He gave hisknife to his cool buddy. Now his cool buddy — this ordinary Black kid — you — faces life in prison. It happens a lot. The badguys stay free the longest. It’s fucked up. But it happens all the time.

TYNELL: What’s that? Sociology? A lot of good that’s gonna do me.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I gotta go now. Do you want me to come again?

TYNELL: Yeah. Yeah, I want you to come again.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Why?

TYNELL: I don’t know. I think I always liked sociology. I don’t know. But I’d like you to come again.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I’ll see you tomorrow.

TYNELL: I’ll keep my schedule open.

(MRS. HOROWITZ laughs as the lights fade.)


Act III. Scene 2 

Same setting as earlier scene — the jail cell; two weeks later.

TYNELL: Do you come to see all your clients every day? I mean, how could you? How many clients you got anyway? This is every day for two straight weeks that you’ve been here.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Do you mind?

TYNELL: No, I don’t mind. I just want to know what the deal is.

MRS. HOROWITZ: You mean, you want to know if you’re special?

TYNELL: Yeah, that’s it, I want to know if I’m special.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Well, yeah, I come to see you more than I see most of my clients.

TYNELL: How come?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I like talking to you.

TYNELL: Does that mean you like me?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Yeah, I like you.

TYNELL: I like you, too. But I don’t know nothin’ about you. How come you never talk about yourself? Isn’t that good sociology?Ain’t you allowed to talk about yourself?

MRS. HOROWITZ: What do you want to know?

TYNELL: You got a man?

MRS. HOROWITZ: No, I’m divorced.

TYNELL: Any kids?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I had a little girl. She died.

TYNELL: How long ago?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Five years ago.

TYNELL: How’d she die?

MRS. HOROWITZ: She fell out of a window.

TYNELL: She fell out of a window? How old was she?

MRS. HOROWITZ: She was three years old.

TYNELL: Shit! Wasn’t no one watching’ her?

MRS. HOROWITZ: My ex-husband was watching her.

TYNELL: And he let her fall out of a window?

MRS. HOROWITZ: He was high.

TYNELL: Is he Black or white?

MRS. HOROWITZ: He’s Black.

TYNELL: That’s ugly stuff. That’s very ugly stuff.

MRS. HOROWITZ: It was very sad. I didn’t speak for a year. I was angry at everybody. Especially Black men. I hated Joe. I couldn’tforgive him. I hated all Black men. It made no sense, but I couldn’t stop myself.

TYNELL: What happened?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Well about a year or so after Janie died, I went over to the window she fell out of. I stood there looking down at thesidewalk. I stood there for over an hour I think. I kept sayin’ to myself, Stella, you’ve either gotta jump or do something withyour fuckin’ life. I couldn’t jump. I didn’t have the guts. So I went back to school, got a degree in social work and here I amwith you.

TYNELL: Do you hate me? I’m a Black man. Do you hate me?

MRS. HOROWITZ: No, I don’t hate you.

TYNELL: Where’s Joe?

MRS. HOROWITZ: He’s in prison. We’re divorced. I don’t want to speak to him. I don’t want to write to him. But I’m not angry at you.We hurt each other, Black and white, but you never hurt me and I’m not gonna hurt you. (Pause.) I gotta go now. I’ve another client I have to see.

TYNELL: You comin’ tomorrow?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Yeah, I’ll be here tomorrow.

TYNELL: I wouldn’t have let the kid fall out. Never in a million years.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I know.

(They touch each other’s hands as the lights fade.)


Act III, Scene 3

Same setting, three months later. MRS. HOROWITZ enters the visiting room. She and TYNELL embrace. At end of embrace she speaks.

MRS. HOROWITZ: What’s up? I got your message that I had to get over here immediately. What’s happened? Did something happen on the legal front?

TYNELL: No. Nuthin’ new on the legal front.

MRS. HOROWITZ: (Somewhat frenetically) Then what’s up? What’s the emergency?

TYNELL: My mother is dying.

MRS. HOROWITZ: What do you mean your mother is dying? What happened?

TYNELL: She just came to see me this morning. She’s got some kind of blood cancer. The doctors told her it don’t look good. Theyain’t got no treatment for this kind of cancer. She’ll be dead in two months.

MRS. HOROWITZ: That’s terrible. I don’t believe it. She wasn’t sick at all, was she? She’s never even been to the doctor, has she?

TYNELL: She hates doctors. She never goes to doctors. But last week she started feeling really bad, throwing up, fainted a fewtimes. Her older sister, my Aunt Tyra, made her go see her doctor. They did these tests. The cancer is very advanced. They say there’s not much hope.

MRS. HOROWITZ: How is she doing? How is she handling it?

TYNELL: Oh, she’s okay. You know Mom. She’s got this deep faith in God. She says she’ll be alright. She says if it’s time for her togo she’s got no problem with going. She’s worried about the girls and me. ’Specially the girls. I guess she knows where I’ll befor the next ten or twenty years. But what will become of the girls? That’s what she’s worried about.

MRS. HOROWITZ: Isn’t there someone in the family who could take them?

TYNELL: The only family is Aunt Tyra. And she’s almost 70. And
she’s got a heart condition. What will the bureau do with them? Foster home or something?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I took them to the zoo the other day. They’re adorable, Tynell. I love them a lot. Andthey love you a lot.

TYNELL: I’m really glad you finally know them. They were here last week to see me. And all they talk about is Aunt Stella. Theyasked me how come you were white.

MRS. HOROWITZ: What’d you tell them?

TYNELL: Told them I don’t know.

MRS. HOROWITZ: I guess for the same reason you’re Black.

(They laugh.)

TYNELL: What’s going to happen to them, Stella?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I don’t know. I’ll do everything I can, you know that.

TYNELL: Why don’t you take them? You can pull strings. They love you. You love them. Why don’t you take them when Mom dies. That’s what I’d like to see.

MRS. HOROWITZ: It would be hard to do. I have no special claim on them. It would be hard to arrange.

TYNELL: What if you were their sister-in-law? What if we got married?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Married? Is this a proposal? I’m almost 30 years older than you. And you got at least 10 years of prison in front ofyou. And you’re proposing marriage? Are you crazy?

TYNELL: No. I’m a good catch. You know I love you. And I know you love me. And I know you love those kids. Let’s get married.

MRS. HOROWITZ: (Smiles) You mean the 19-year-old Black dude is asking the old Jew lady to be his wife? Is that what you’re telling me?

TYNELL: That’s what I’m tellin’ you.

MRS. HOROWITZ: What are you gonna tell the Black brothers in prison?
You’re wife is a Jew lady almost old enough to be your grandmother?

TYNELL: Yeah, that’s what I’ll tell them. I’d be happy to tell them that.

MRS. HOROWITZ:  I’d love to raise the girls.

TYNELL: Then it’s a deal. Get married.

MRS. HOROWITZ: This is crazy.

TYNELL: No. This is sociology. We Blacks and Jews can’t decide whether we should stab each other or marry each other. What do they call it? A love-hate relationship? It’s weird. But I want to be your husband. I would never hurt you. I want you to raise the girls. And it would make Mom really happy. She always tells me you’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I tell her,

TYNELL: (continued) Mom, she’s my social worker. I met her because I killed somebody. And she says, God operates in mysterious ways. It’s all for the best. Stella’s the best thing that ever happened to you. That’s what my mom says. I think she’s right. You are the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

MRS. HOROWITZ: You’re sure you’re not Jewish?

TYNELL: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m sure I’m not Jewish. But I am convincing, don’t you think?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I think.

TYNELL: Then you’ll do it? We’ll get married? You’ll take care of the girls? I’ll be on my best behavior in jail. I’ll be out in ten years. And we’ll live happily ever after.

MRS. HOROWITZ: What ever after? I’ll be pushing 60.

TYNELL: You’ll be pushing 60 in ten years whether you marry me or not. You got somebody else in mind?

MRS. HOROWITZ: I have nobody else.

TYNELL: Then you’ll do it? You’ll marry me?

MRS. HOROWITZ: Do you think this is going to help Black-Jewish relations?

TYNELL: Nothing’s going to help Black-Jewish relations. But it might be nice for us. And the kids. And Mom. Will you marry me?

MRS. HOROWITZ: All right, I’ll marry you. Now can I go back to work?

TYNELL: Yeah, go back to work. But don’t marry any other clients.
Oh, yeah, call my mother. She wants to speak to you. She wants to arrange the wedding.

MRS. HOROWITZ: You told her we were getting married?

TYNELL: Yeah.

MRS. HOROWITZ: You knew I’d say yes?

TYNELL: Yeah.

Epilogue

ACTOR: Yeah. Yeah. That’s what Tynell says — “Yeah.” It’s a New York “Yeah.” Everyone in New York says it. Women, men. Black,Latino, white, gay and straight. Every New Yorker has her or his own version of “Yeah.” Out-of-towners sometimes think it’sarrogant, you know. Wise ass. But it isn’t. The New York “Yeah” means something like, “That’s just how it is. Yeah. That’s justhow it is. It might change some day, but for now, yeah.” That’s how it is. The New York “yeah” captures something of the spiritof this great city. Yeah … it’s a great city. Thanks for coming. Yeah.