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Understanding Social Justice Through The Arts

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Social justice and the arts. How they can work together to help us process social upheaval in ways mere words cannot.

When social and political events unfold, mere words and pictures cannot fully capture the emotions of a moment. Often the work of artists can help fill the gaps and translate complex conversations with a new kind of language. Charlotte saw this whenlocal artists took boarded up windows following the riots and protests after the shooting of Keith Scott and transformed them into art.

In recent years, America has been witness to a number of uprisings and outrage as a result of police brutality and officer-involved shootings. There may be none as memorable as Rodney King, whose beating by police officers in 1991 lead to the L.A. riots the next year.

Roger Guenveur Smith performing "Rodney King"

Actor Roger Guenveur Smith has turned King's story into a one-man show, "Rodney King" which is coming to UNC Charlotte. The actor, writer and director has had a varied career on stage and on screen. He's worked with acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee on seven movies, been seen in the recent film "The Birth of a Nation" and appeared in the TV show "A Different World" to name just a few.

It's not the first time he's taken on culturally significant characters on stage. He's done one-man staged performances depicting abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass and Huey P. Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party. He joins Mike Collins to discuss how the arts and theatre provide a different kind of perspective on our culture, values and shared history.


Roger Guenveur Smith - actor, writer and director. He's performing his one-man show "Rodney King" at UNC Charlotte.

Kaja Dunn - Assistant Professor of Acting in UNC Charlotte's Theatre Department. Her research is about having complex cultural conversations through theatre.

Event Info

Roger Guenveur Smith will perform his one-man show, "Rodney King," on Tuesday, January 10th at 7:30pm at Belk Theater’s Robinson Hall. The event is free and open to the public. Details.

Clip of Roger Guenveur Smith performing his solo show "Rodney King:"

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Erin Keever is Senior Producer of WFAE's Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. She has been with the show since joining the station in 2006. She's a native Charlottean.