On Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at 8pm EST, a group of arts institutions across the nation will premiere the short film They Still Want to Kill Us, an aria by composer and activist Daniel Bernard Roumain, performed by mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, and directed by filmmaker Yoram Savion. The event marks the 100th anniversary of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, when a white mob attacked Black residents, homes, businesses, and places of worship in the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma—an atrocity all but deleted from history until recently.
“What happened to American citizens on May 31, 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma was a massacre by white people perpetrated upon Black people,” says Roumain. “Violence against those who are other in America is deeply rooted in our history, and we have a choice. We can be silent—or we can move mountains and create new spaces for our communities.”
The premiere also marks one year since the murder of George Floyd: a commentary on our progress this last century on the issue of race and America’s treatment of Black life. They Still Want to Kill Us will stream on YouTube and Facebook, and beginning May 26 it will stream for free on the Opera Philadelphia Channel and elsewhere until July 31.
The May 25 program will include the Savion’s performance, a discussion with Daniel Bernard Roumain and Bridges moderated by Jamilla Deria, and a statement by Damario Solomon-Simmons of the Justice for Greenwood Foundation. The foundation is a network of activists, attorneys, volunteers, experts, and descendants of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre seeking accountability, financial compensation, publication, and greater truth-telling around the facts and legacy of the massacre.
They Still Want to Kill Us was filmed in May 2021 in New York City’s Sultan Room and Central Park’s historic Seneca Village site. A 19th-century settlement mostly populated by the largest number of African American landowners in New York before the Civil War, the site was torn down to help make way for Central Park. 225 residents (two-thirds Black and one-third Irish) lost 50 homes, three churches, and a school of African American children. Through archival image references and evocative visual narrative, the piece connect the past and the present, highlighting a pattern of hidden and historically ignored state violence and the forcible displacement of African American landowning communities across the nation.
The aria is a part of a larger pocket opera of the same name slated to premiere in the 2021-2022 season.
Learn more about the uncensored aria and project at theystillwanttokillus.com.