As the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the official ending of slavery in the United States, Juneteenth is observed every year on June 19. This important day occurred two-and-a-half years after the Emancipation Proclamation, with Texas being the final state to observe the decree.
In honor of Juneteenth, The Public has just released Girl From the North Country cast member Kimber Elayne Sprawl’s collaborative interpretation of Hamlet’s eternal “To Be or Not To Be” speech and performed by a stellar group of 30 African American actors including Toree Alexander, Jelani Alladin, Denée Benton, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Sterling K. Brown, Jonathan Burke, Ato Blankson-Wood, Gerald Caesar, Don Cheadle, Grantham Coleman, Khris Davis, Ellis Dawson, André De Shields, Alysha Deslorieux, Alexandra Grey, Renée Elise Goldsberry, William Jackson Harper, Nikki M. James, Wonza Johnson, Blaine Krauss, Audra McDonald, Jevon McFerrin, Patina Miller, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Adrienne C. Moore, Joe Morton, Jordin Sparks, Kimber Elayne Sprawl, Alexandria Wailes, and Nik Walker.
Creative Director and Producer Kimber Elayne Sprawl shared more about her inspiration for “To Be or Not To Be”:
“Listen as Black actors across the nation explore the truth in the painful reality of being Black in America with Shakespearean text. Timeless words that were never intended for us, yet the notion ‘To Be or Not To Be’ carries infinite weight throughout Black American history.
We call on America to listen with empathy and to act in alliance with Black Lives Matter.
This Nation possesses power that will remain latent until we unlock its truths.”
The video also features musicians Richie Goods and Wesley Winfrey playing “Strange Fruit.” “To Be or Not to Be” features video editing by Katiana Weems and audio engineering by Gabby Henderson.
This video is presented as part of The Public’s ongoing #BraveNewShakespeare Series, a weekly digital challenge that invites our community to create and share their own interpretations of what Shakespeare’s words mean today through performance, song, conversation, and connection.
To learn more about Juneteenth and to find resources on supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and other organizations and communities who support Black communities on the front lines – click HERE.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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