If America is to continue its journey towards social justice, the arts will play a vital role in reflecting our current sentiments and presenting a vision for something greater.
Anne & Emmett is a one-act play that looks at the tragedy of racial/ethnic hostilities that claimed the lives of two martyrs who became symbols of sufferings, injustice, and movements to overcome them.
The play depicts an imaginary meeting between Anne Frank and Emmett Till, conversing about the horrific experiences that befell them as teenagers.
Born in 1929, Anne Frank lost her German citizenship at age 12 and died in the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp in 1941, only weeks before the British troops invaded the camp and freed its captives. Her diaries, written during two years of hiding, provide a riveting glimpse into the autocracies visited upon Jewish people during Hitler’s Third Reich.
Emmett Till, a 14-year old African American from Chicago, was brutally murdered in Money, Mississippi on August 28, 1955. After a harmless encounter with a white woman (Carolyn Bryant), Till was badly beaten, shot, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. Till’s murderers bound him with a cotton gin around the neck to submerge his mutilated body. A trial before an all-white jury in the jim crow south produced indisputable [eye] witnesses, but ended in not guilty verdicts of men who later confessed the heinous murder in a Look Magazine article.
Ironically, Till was born in the same year that Frank died. The play draws its audience into a number of comparisons and contrasts about their lives.
Like many before her, God cut out Cohen’s life from a most unique cloth. Born in Indianapolis, IN, Cohen was raised in a housing project by a single mother who worked as a maid and secretary in a local hospital. From challenging beginnings, she went on to become a model for both Ebony and Marshall Field’s. A writer, journalist, entrepreneur, and playwright. The founder, president, and CEO of Langhart Communications is married to William Cohen, former Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration.
Not only is the marriage interracial, but involves a moderate Republican and a liberal Democrat, giving the couple a special opportunity to address race matters across the political spectrum.
Having been born just a few months before Till, Cohen is candid in her reflections on the life-survival lessons African Americans pass down in order to survive racism that filters into myriad areas of our society. Cohen graduated from historic Crispus Attucks High School where she read about the life of Anne Frank. Cohen studied liberal arts at Butler University. Her professional career included media positions in Chicago, Boston, and New York. Cohen has written two memoirs, My Life in Two Americas; From Rage to Reason and Love in Black and White.
How You Can Advance the Conversation
If Anne & Emmett makes its way to your city, make every effort to see it. Ask someone of a different race/ethnic group to attend with you. Request your mosque, synagogue, or church to do an inter-faith outing or to sponsor a production. Discuss bringing this play to your child’s grade school. Look for an opportunity to use this play as an instrument for making us a more harmonious nation.
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