“Southern trees bear a strange fruit/Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.”
Originally a poem describing lynching in the American South, “Strange Fruit” was written by Abel Meeropol in 1939 and famously performed by singers Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Strange Fruit, part of the Spectrum Dance Theater’s “Wokeness Festival,” drew its inspiration from this haunting song. This festival was to celebrate, as Donald Byrd, the Strange Fruit choreographer and Spectrum’s Artistic Director, calls it, “the notion of complete awareness.” In his Q&A after the show a few weeks ago, he described lynching, calling it “a method to keep black folks in their place and to assert white supremacy in the south.” Over 4,000 lynchings occurred over a 100 year period in America, so Strange Fruit was an important piece to create and distribute because so many Americans are still unaware of the history that forms our present day systemic inequities. The non-black U.S. population may be somewhat aware of this violence, but they cannot fully absorb the effect that it has had on black bodies, both past and present.