Harvey Young

Harvey Young, Northwestern University

Black Lives Matter in Performance


This paper explores “Black Lives Matter” (BLM), the United States activist movement against the murders of black men often by law enforcement officials, and its resonances in Canada. In Canada, particularly in Toronto, BLM has brought renewed attention to the treatment of black Canadians and their targeting (such as “carding”) by regional law enforcement personnel. The stopping and questioning of individuals often without cause both anchor themselves in a system of racial profiling that deliberately targets of black men, women, and young adults. This paper engages BLM and the ways contemporary artists and artist-activists have employed performance to draw attention to the matter of black lives in Canada. It offers an overview of select performance works, such as the solo projects of d’bi young antiafrika, among others, to identify how artists have employed theatre to address the precarity of black life and racialized experiences in our politically charged present.


Harvey Young (PhD Cornell) is a Professor of Theatre at Northwestern University and President of the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. Young has published seven books on race and performance, including Embodying Black Experience: Stillness, Critical Memory, and the Black Body (2010), which won Best Book Awards at the National Communication Association and the American Society for Theatre Research. Other significant contributions include: Theatre & Race (2013); Black Theatre is Black Life (2014), and compendiums and interviews on playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Lorraine Hansberry. A Fellow at Harvard and Stanford and Editor of Theatre Survey, he is currently writing a monograph, Virtually Black: Race in New Media, which examines the digital Black lives. Forthcoming works include “Pessimism and the ‘Age of Obama’” (American Literary History). Young also writes for Al Jazeera, the Chicago Sun-Times, and theatre-focused public media outlets.