The Kama-Sahlor Performing Arts Group presented “Alicia N' Ghettoland,” a culturally centered piece sending a message about human trafficking, at the Venice Island Performing Arts Rec Center, on Wednesday.
Written by Lisa Hopkins, Alicia N’ Ghettoland was inspired by the classic Alice in Wonderland, but featured an all-Black cast, with an infusion of Black history and Hip-Hop.
“We are honored to have had the opportunity of working with 15 youth performers from our City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection,” said Hopkins. “This spring, we provided a project that focused on the urban hip/hop culture to bring awareness to human trafficking which is modern day slavery. We hope and pray that our children will be safe and free from this atrocity.”
In a statement issued by Kama-Sahlor, it is noted that “year after year, since 2003, it has been reported by FBI’s’ Innocence Lost’ national initiative that females as young as 10 years old in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Reading fall victim to sex trafficking. More than 6,500 child identifications have been yielded through cross country operations.”
Through a mix of dramatic, comedic and humanistic storytelling, ‘Ghettoland’ showed the experience of Alicia, a teenager who runs away from home after her sister lies and tells her she is adopted. On her journey to discover her supposed “true” mother, she encounters an eccentric group of characters - from shocking queens to talking flowers. They warn her along the way, giving her safety “tips” as they also address the audience.
“Watch out for those social media predators,” said one House of Games card. “Parents, you must know what your kids’ Snapchat, Instagram and social media comments are all about,” warned another.
Even after all the foreboding, however, Alicia still ends up being lured by Madd Hatten, a trafficker who promises her a world of “Gucci” clothing and “shrimp” dinners.
At the end, she breaks out of the trafficking world but not without a trail of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. The play ends with a spiritual redemption and awakening.
“I learned to keep an eye open, to be careful because not everything is the way it seems and not to be so naive and have such a big head when it comes to certain situations, certain circumstances,” said Justine ‘Abby’ Miller, who played the main part of Alicia.
Musa Cooper, the actor who played Madd Hatten and the play choreographer, shared a similar view.
“I feel as though this is a powerful message that’s being sent across,” said Cooper.
“This is a smart way to get it out there, so you expose the kids to it and give them tools to protect themselves from anything happening.” Also one of the first African- American break dancers from seasons one and two of “So You Think You Can
Dance,” Cooper added that he was glad to volunteer his time to entertainment that was community driven.
“Some of the youth have this desire to act or sing but they need someone to push them but they don’t have the venue to do it,” said Cooper. “This opens the door instead of going to acting school. This is a free program that’s simple to be a part of and learn a lot from.”
Jaron Hopkins, 16, who starred as Flavor and Cowboy Da ‘Fresh, helping guide Alicia on her journey, is the director’s son and said this might be his “thousandth” time starring in a Kama Sahlor play. He wrote his own rhymes for “Ghettoland” and said the production was just all apart of the growing experience.
“For the first time, I was more of a mentor than an actor. I was able to mentor the younger kids,” he said. “And what I got out of the play is you have to be more observant of what’s going on in your neighborhood. You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”