VERB: Some bullshit.
PINNACLE: Yeah it is.
PEEP ONE: Damn.
VERB: So sick of this. How many this year alone?
PEEP ONE: Too many.
VERB: This keeps happening.
PINNACLE: I know. It’s bullshit.
– HYPE MAN by Idris Goodwin, p.19
The image above shows just several of the many black lives taken by police unjustly in recent years — their names and many others have been making the front pages and top headlines of major news and media outlets over the past several years as issues surrounding police violence become more of a national conversation. In an attempt to humanize and create visibility for people of color who were victims of police brutality, online activists began using the social media hashtag #saytheirnames.
As we consider the social and political climate in which Hype Man is set and explore the circumstances that lead to the death of (fictional) Jerrod Davis, it’s worth pausing to reflect on the real life incidents that inspired this aspect of the play. Click the names below to read/watch their stories:
Their Names and stories Continue…
PEEP ONE: I opened those DNA results….last night
VERB: I thought….I thought you ain’t wanna know
PINNACLE: You always told me you didn’t care.
VERB: So? What are you?
PINNACLE: Not that it matters but—yeah what are you?
Peep One, who’s described in the Hype Man character breakdown as mixed race, was adopted as a kid and doesn’t know much about her family history or racial background. She frequently gets questions about her racial identity and debates whether a home DNA test, like the ones offered by Ancestry.com or 23andMe, might illuminate something about her heritage and her relationship to the events surrounding the shooting of Jerrod Davis.
A question came up in rehearsal about what a DNA test result might look like — below are a few examples of how that data might be presented and the level of detail Peep One could expect to see in her results.
(getting the news on her phone)
They’re saying that he was rushing to get to his grandma…..she raised him. She had just suddenly collapsed at the hospital. He was rushing to be by her side.
He didn’t even get to say goodbye. They shot him.
Surrendered with his hands up!
Cops—they get anxious—
They get racist.
– HYPE MAN by Idris Goodwin, p. 19
Recent high-profile cases of unarmed black men dying at the hands of law enforcement have sparked protests and civil unrest in several American cities. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray are — some claim — evidence of long-standing problems with police racism and excessive violence. Nearly one in three black people killed by police in 2015 were identified as unarmed, though the actual number is likely higher due to under reporting.
Some facts from MappingPoliceViolence.org:
Black people were 26% (279) of those killed despite being only 13% of the population.
These statistics help to create a social context for the police shooting of Jerrod Davis that takes place in Hype Man, where the frequency of police violence and the inequalities faced by people of color mirror our reality. Peep One, Verb, and Pinnacle all react to the news about this shooting in different ways, but as the stats reflect, this wouldn’t be the first incident of an unarmed person being killed by police in the world of the play. How does this particular shooting affect each character compared to past news reports they may have heard?