by the Forward

Anna Deavere Smith Took on the School-to-Prison Pipeline

No options but jail or death; look askance at a cop at your own peril; we’re failing our kids, our young adults, our own humanity. These are but some of the messages Anna Deavere Smith channeled in her indelible show, “Notes From the Field.” Melding journalism, anthropology and performance, Smith stitched a riveting investigation of the political, economic and social forces that have built — too well — the vast school-to-prison pipeline. It brimmed with pathos and bits of hope. When she delivered the speech of the Rev. Jamal Bryant at the funeral of Freddie Gray, the audience was transported to church, grieving alongside Gray’s family. When she assumed the role of the NAACP’s Sherrilyn Ifill, observing the “heaviness” across our land and lamenting our collective decision to invest in prisons, you could not help but take the remark as as prognosis for our near future. Will we redirect our resources? Will a day come when every child gets a fair chance at hope? Smith alone cannot provide answers. But together, her fascinating and tragedy-filled production implies, we may well have a critical shot.

- Sara Ivry
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Notes From the Field

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