Fresno State Production of the Hands Up Testaments


On October 02, 2016 I attend the showing of Dr. Thomas Ellis’ production of Hands Up at Fresno State. The production consists of 7 testaments written by 7 writers, inspired by the death of Michael Brown, who was shot multiple times by the police despite having his hands up in the air. The production was approximately 90 minutes with a 10-minute intermission.

I attended the show with my 17-year-old sister. She has been asking questions about police brutality and Black Lives Matter. Like many of us, she was exposed to the work of Black Lives Matter, and the problem of police brutality through social media. She didn’t understand what the matter was and I do not feel that I have the right words to explain to a teenager about racism in the United States. I never had the opportunity to have such a sensitive conversation with a person of her age, who has a sudden curiosity about the world around her and is becoming conscientious every day.

The show began with Nathan James’ Superiority Fantasy about the feeling of being the spacious black person. The characters talk about their experience of being stopped because they were black. The one that impacted me the most was Nambi Kelley’s Dead of the Night… the Execution of…  which tell from the female character’s perspective of her victimization by the police officers who found her injured on the street and then objectified and sexualized her. The boyfriend was a white man; our speaker was a black woman who despite being the victim of assault ended up in jail instead of her white perpetrator. Dead of the Night shows the intersectionality of being both black and female. The show ended with Dennis Allen II’s How I feel with the actors asking the audience to put their hands up and shout “Don’t shoot!” reminiscing events of the many men and women who were shot despite having their hands up and beg us to ponder the heated questions, “Why couldn’t he just put his hands up? How hard was that?” Those questions are asked by individuals to justify police brutality.

The production was a powerful event and was made impactful by the actors’ clothing. Everyone in the show wore a gray hooded sweater to commemorate Trayvon Martin, who was shot to death because he was found suspicious due to his hooded sweater. The gray hooded sweater is a symbol of prejudice against the black bodies. It speaks against discrimination and prejudice against the unconventional clothing wear. It is a symbol against racial violence and racism in the United States.



One thought on “Fresno State Production of the Hands Up Testaments

  1. See, thanks for sharing your experience attending the latest theater piece presented by Thomas W. Ellis. great that your took your younger sister, hopefully she started finding answer to the difficult questions of race. for a youth of color at her age the answer to the questions are crucial for her identity formation.

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