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Cinci Fringe Festival features NKU project’s new films presenting insightful dialogue on race

By Vicki Prichard
NKyTribune correspondent

Northern Kentucky University’s Mourning the Creation of Racial Categories, (MCRC) Project is presenting two new films at the 2021 Cincinnati Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in Ohio.

The films are part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival’s primary line-up and are available on-demand through 19.

NKU’s MCRC Project partners with visual, creative, and performing artists to spur conversations around racial disparities.

“The George Floyd tragedy and the most recent commemoration of the Tulsa race massacre 100 years ago are not isolated stories,” Dr. Joan Ferrante, director of the MCRC Project said. “I think we can argue that every year of our country’s 400-year history there is a story with a similar emotional intensity that captured national attention or was swept out of sight. And these stories are like an avalanche running up to the present.”

The MCRC Project’s films, Why White? and, I am White Like You, Right Mom? tell the stories of how Black and White Categories came to be.

Why White? opens with a patient, who appears white, struggling to declare “White” as his race on a medical form. He asks, “Why do my doctors need to know my race? And “Why am I called “White” anyway?” which begins an exploration of how the labels “White” and “Black” came to be and opens the conversation of how White carries the weight of race.

In the film, I am White Like You, Right Mom?, a white-appearing mother must explain to her black-appearing daughter that, “you are not white exactly.” The conversation expands and reveals the story of why, in the U.S., parent and child can be labeled as different races and how race invades the family space.

“Our country has never explored the emotional story of how the racial categories we check on application forms came to be,” Ferrante said. “As a country, we can never really address racial tensions until we know why the racial categories that define us were created and how they were made to matter. MCRC films, including the two newest films, provide insights that allow people to see race in new ways. New ways of seeing race spark new feelings about race, interest, hope, and ultimately change. The emotional story, as sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues, encompasses the “entire emotional gamut: hate and love, disgust and pleasure, aversion and empathy.””

Through its research, which involved hundreds of personal interviews, the MCRC Project found that all interviewees felt some form of grief related to race.

Dr. Joan Ferrante

“This grief is very personal and takes many forms,” Ferrante said. “If 330-plus million people feel grief in some level (numbness, denial, defensiveness, disconnectedness, sadness, depression, or rage), how does a nation recover when there are not methods for channeling this grief – no national monuments, no support groups, no memorial services that allow us to process what it took to divide people into unequally valued racial categories. MCRC offers the tools to plan and carry out such rituals.”

In addition to the films, the MCRC Project’s interactive exhibit, “The Emotional Force of Race, is on display as part of the Visual Fringe. The online or in-person exhibit allows viewers to interact with visual art that explores the roots, range, and diversity of emotions brought on by the idea of race. Visual Fringe is free and runs through June 19.

Tickets can be purchased, and the films can be viewed, by clicking here. General admission streaming ticket price of $10, plus a $1 fee), includes access to both films online for a 24-hour period anytime between 8 p.m., June 4, and midnight June 19. The 24-hour period begins when the films are accessed as opposed to the time of purchase. Only one ticket per showing is needed for group viewings.

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival, in its 17th year, is a 14-day celebration of theatre, art, music, film and dance, and presents more than 200 performances of 40-plus theatre productions. Cincinnati’s Know Theatre serves as the Fringe Festival headquarters as well as a venue for performances. For 2021, the Cincinnati Fringe Festival will present online and at two outdoor stages, both near the Know Theatre.

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