The Freaky Negro: An analysis of Stew’s Passing Strange and his Challenging of the hegemony through his depiction of Youth as an Illegible Black man

The world has always been a place where there are those who have and those who do not have. This binary of haves and have-nots is predictable based on who the person is. In the United States of America, the basis of this binary lies in what race this person is.  However, the understanding of race is simply not that easy to think of in terms of those who have and those who do not have because of the existence and role of the hegemonic group. For right now, the hegemonic group can be thought of as the group that is in power and establishes the ideologies of that society in which the citizens must live in accordance with. This is to say that the hegemonic group in the United States of America, which so happens to be primarily white wealthy heterosexual Christian males establishes the ideologies of what it means to be of race. Therefore, the hegemonic group dictates what it means to be Black, what it means to be white, what it means to be Latinx, and so on.  The hegemonic group does this in order to maintain power in a neoliberal system. 

Neoliberalism is all around us, it controls everything that we consume and it forces us to think in a particular way which has been produced by the hegemonic group. And this hegemonic group through neoliberalism has promoted the ideology of individualism. However, before we talk about individualism there needs to be an understanding of neoliberalism. The idea of neoliberalism can be thought through the tenants of increasing privatization, the scaling back of social welfare state programs, the belief of free trade, fewer government regulations, promotion of individualism over public goods, fosters competition, supports capitalism/free market: consolidation of wealth, it can foster social unrest vis-a-vis identity and class politics, and ultimately it shapes how we experience our social lives emotionally. It is apparent that we are so ingrained in living in the system of neoliberalism. And it is through neoliberalism that the hegemonic group decides what it means to be of race through essentialism as a way to restore and maintain power. 

Neoliberalism ironically uses essentialism. This is ironic because we know that in neoliberalism that individualism is key but essentialism tries to group people together. Essentialism can be understood as using set characteristics to describe all of something (ex. All women are irrational”.) It creates harm by reducing an entire demographic to a stereotype or something that is believed to be true about them.  It is because of essentialism that stereotypes exist. And it is with these stereotypes that the hegemonic group is able to maintain power through the promotion of individualism. For example, an essentialism stereotype that exists is that all Black people are lazy. Using this example the hegemonic group will point out a Black person who they deem as exceptional and say things like “ Look at Barack Obama he worked hard and was able to become the President of the United States of America. So there is no excuse Black people just need to work harder.” But the reality is it’s not that easy because not all Black people have the same experiences and access. However, we are made to think through essentialism that the experiences of Black people and other marginalized folks are monolithic. 

Despite knowing that the hegemonic essentialist view of Black people holds to be inherently false many Black people still buy into these ways of thinking so that they fall into their place within society. It is with this deficit thinking that a hierarchy of Blackness is manufactured. In this hierarchy, there are sets of behaviors and attitudes that are deemed as Black. Meaning, if you do not hold these attitudes and practice these behaviors you are seen as not Black. Having this hierarchy of Blackness creates difficulties for Black individuals who do not have these behaviors and attitudes to operate and live freely. Therefore, it can be difficult for individuals who do not fit this mold of Blackness to live freely and be themselves. We can refer to this difficulty as the Negro Problem. Stew in his 2006 Musical titled Passing Strange investigates this Negro Problem as he tells his own coming of age story as an aspiring punk musician with the character named Youth.  In Passing Strange  the character of Youth embodies the identity ‘The Freaky Negro’ as a way to fight the Negro Problem which exists from essentialism. The embodiment of the Freaky Negro serves for Youth as alternate form of masculinity to challenge hegemonic understandings of what it means to really Black and masculine. Ultimately this embodiment is a way for Youth to live freely.

Theoretical Framework 

The Negro Problem was first coined by W.E.B. DuBois. The 20th-century social theorist used the term to speak about the realities and experiences that Black Americans faced during the 20th century. With the Negro Problem DuBois questions for Black Americans “How does it feel to be a problem”(Woolf, 2010, p. 193)?  Through this questioning DuBois begins to outline that the problem is rooted in the evilness of racism. And it is because of this racism that DuBois articulates that Black Americans are forced to live dialectically. This dialectical way of life is what DuBois calls ‘double consciousness’. The idea of double consciousness can be defined as “ It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self  through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity.” (DuBois, 1903, p. 2).  In essence double consciousness is the lens that Black Americans are forced to see the world through. Black Americans must not only see the world as Black people they must also view the world as white people. This double consciousness is the force that creates the hierarchy of Blackness.

The racism that manufactures the negro problem for Black Americans is created by the hegemonic group. In America, the hegemonic group is primarily white wealthy heterosexual Christian males. And it is the role of the hegemonic group to establish ideologies. Ideolodology is a very complex idea and to understand it we must know what the context in which it exists. Louis Althusser defines ideology as a “ representation’ of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Althusser,1998, p.52). Now, Essentially, ideology is the idea of creating a meaningful relationship between two objects that do not necessarily relate.  For example, the American flag has a relationship with the word freedom.  By itself, the flag is just fabric but there has been a relationship created with freedom because what Americans believe the flag represents. One of the ideologies the hegemonic  group has established is what it means to be Black through essentialism. But not only have they created this determination of what it means to Black they have also decided what it means to be a man. Therefore, Black men are told first how they are supposed to be Black and simultaneously they are being told how to be a man.

The hegemonic group has established what it means to be a man through hegemonic masculinity. R.W. Connell, an Australian Sociologist in her article titled The Social Organization of Masculinity presents her own definition of masculinity. She begins to construct this definition of masculinity by first providing commentary on the modern discursive definition of masculinity which is in sum the opposite of being feminine. Therefore she decides that masculinity cannot be defined without questioning its relationship to  femininity. Connell finally defines masculinity as “Masculinity, to the extent the term can be briefly defined at all, is simultaneously a place in gender relations, the practice through which men and women engage that place in gender, and the effects of these practices in bodily experience, personality and culture”. (Connell, 2001, p.33).   Therefore Connell’s idea of hegemonic masculinity illustrates that masculinity is unique to the culture and therefore within a specific culture the ideology constructs what it means to be a man. In the American context hegomonic masculinity supports the idea of a patriarchal masculinity  that is manufactured from the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. And this patriarchal masculinity  is the idea that “if a man is not a worker he is nothing” (hooks, 2004, p.30). Therefore,  patriarchal masculinity creates the expectation for American men to be the breadwinners while their female partners do not have the same expectations, thus creating a patriarchal rule. With that being said the hegemonic masculinity creates a patriarchal rule via patriarchal masculinity.  The hegemonic masculinity thus puts Black men in a bind because now they not only have to this patriarchal ruler but they also have to fit into a hegemonic version of Blackness. 

Now, Blackness is a strange idea because the whole concept is socially constructed from a system that is also socially constructed. Race is a system that was socially constructed in order to create a difference in power where white Europeans are at the top of the hierarchy and everyone else underneath. However, Blackness is crafted from this system of racism. But in Blackness, Black Americans and the hegemonic group tell other Black folks what it means to Black. However, Thomas DeFrantz in his Chapter titled I Am Black: (you have to be willing to not know) engages in a conversation of contemporary discourse of race in Black performance. In this conversation, DeFrantz speaks to ideas of  Blackness and ideas of being a queer artist. For DeFrantz Blackness is a complex one. He says Blackness is not to be understood. DeFrantz articulates this by saying “Blackness does; blackness inspires; blackness confirms and consecrates. Race inhibits; it constrains. It shuts down. Blackness allows for. For love. When you talk about race, and you know you’re trying to talk about blackness but you don’t understand the blackness, that’s when it happens” (DeFrantz, 2017, p. 11). In Passing Strange Youth slowly begins to understand this as he embodies an illegible image of masculinity as the Freaky Negro.

For Black men in a hegemonic society, there are really only two forms of masculinity illegible and legible. Mark Anthony Neal in his fantastic book titled Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities explores masculinity within Black men. He coins two forms of masculinity for Black men Legible masculinity and Illegible masculinity. Illegible masculinities are in essence masculinities that do not fit heteronormative assumptions and that challenge stereotypes like queer bodies or successful Black males outside of essentialists stereotyped professions like doctors or lawyers.  Legible masculinities do fit the mold of hegemonic assumptions and stereotypes like rappers, criminals, or professional athletes. This duality between legible and illegible creates the conversation for what it means to be a good Black man. Mccune in his chapter  A Good Black Manhood is Hard to Find: Toward a More Transgressive Reading Practices spends time discussing what it means to be a ‘good Black man’.  He argues that the “inability to see black men as “good,” and to disaggregate blackness from deviance, situates men who move outside the norm of demonized blackness into an “exceptional” category. As a result, we are always left with ‘typical vs. exceptional’, ‘hero vs. villain’, and “good vs. bad” (Mccune,2012, p.123).  This duality creates tension for Black men in creating their identity because they have to decide if they want to be a good or bad Black man. Therefore, many Black men fall into the trap of fitting into a legible image by deciding to embrace the bad Black men so that they can be deemed as Black by hegemonic standards. But what happens when one displays an illegible form of masculinity? The answer is far too often they pass for something that they are not. 

Passing has a rich history in the United States. As previously mentioned earlier race is a dominant system that controls Americans. In this system of race to be white is to be favorable and to be anything other is less than desirable. Therefore, during the era of Jim Crow lighter-skinned Black Americans would often try to pass as white so that they may avoid the harsh treatment that Black Americans faced in America.  As a way to pass these individuals would be dealt with the brown paper bag test. This test is simply where if the individual’s skin color was lighter than a brown paper bag they were determined to be white. As individuals tried to pass they took extreme measures by straightening their hair, dressing in a particular way, speaking in a certain dialect, and picking their romantic partner based on skin color. Over the course of Passing and the fictions of identity Ginsberg discusses the politics of race in America as well as the history of passing. Along with talking about passing in terms of race Ginsberg acknowledges that people pass through gender, gender expression, and sexual orientation. Ginsberg writes that “ passing forces reconsideration of the cultural logic that the physical body is the site of identic intelligibility” (Ginsberg, 1996, p. 4). And this where we find Youth in Passing Strange as he begins to ‘pass strange’ in order find his true self as a way to fight the Negro Problem which exists from essentialism. To do this Youth embodies the identity of the Freaky Negro as an alternate form of masculinity to challenge hegemonic understandings of what is real Blackness and masculinity in order to liberate himself. 

The Freaky Negro for the purpose of this paper is used to refer to the alternative path to masculinity and Blackness that Youth employs in Passing Strange.  I did not coin this trope, but rather I have adopted it from a line in Passing Strange. Early on in the play Youth joins the church choir, and during the first rehearsal Youth joins the choir director along with a few other choir members for a unique prayer circle. During this prayer, the choir members smoke marijuana with the choir director Mr. Franklin in his car. And, it was during this experience that Mr. Franklin explains to Youth and the other choir members that “we’re all freaky negros depending on the background” (Stew, 2006, p. 22).  This line is so crucial because it sets the stage for the rest of the show. With this line, Mr. Franklin one alludes to who Youth is going to become, and two he begins to tease out the ideas of Blackness and hegemonic view of masculinity in America. Youth is the epitome of the Freaky Negro as he challenges the hegemony.  

Production History and Summary

Passing Strange was first produced in 2006 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. After a short run at the historic regional theater, the play had an opportunity to move to the Big Apple. However, before the show hit Broadway, it made a stop at the house that Joseph Papp built on 425 Lafayette Street which is where the Public Theater is located.. Passing Strange had a nice run at the Public Theater, it ran from May 14th through June 3rd, 2007. At the Public Theater, the show was performed in the very important Anspacher Theater. And then, in February 2008 Passing Strange hit Broadway on the 28th. In its production at all three theaters, the cast was consistent. Saying this “The cast includes the jazz and hip-hop vocalist de’Adre Aziza, Daniel Breaker (Well, Fabulation), Eisa Davis (“Soul Food”), Colman Domingo (Henry V), Chad Goodridge (The Debate Over Courtney O’Connell) and Rebecca Naomi Jones (Caroline, or Change) (Hernandez, 2007). Outside, the characters in the play Stew himself acts as another character as he narrates the play. Additionally, Heidi Rodewald acts as another character in the play as she leads the musicians. Stew and Heidi help drive the course of the play and with the help of the other cast members they tell the story of Youth.

Now, the play is a two-act punk rock musical that is set in the 1970s in three different countries. The musical works as an autobiography for Stew as he tells his own coming of age story as “a young black bohemian in search of self and home who charts a course for ‘the real’ through sex, drugs, and rock and roll” (Hernandez, 2007).  Passing Strange opens up with Stew as Youth in South-Central Los Angeles, California in the early 1970s.  We find out that Youth comes from a middle-class single-mother Christian household.  It is with Christianity that Youth slowly begins to question his identity and find himself, as he joins the church choir in the pursuit of a young woman named Edwina Willams. The choir is directed by Mr. Franklin who is a closeted gay man who introduces the choir members to drugs. And it is through drugs that changes Youth’s trajectory of life as he and Edwina leave the choir to start a punk band called Sole Brother. Through Sole Brother Youth encounters the drug LSD that leads him to have a bad trip and we find Youth next in Amsterdam. 

When Youth arrives in Amsterdam he hopes to become a popular punk musician. It seems like this a feasible goal due to the freedom that Amsterdam provides through its tolerant view towards drugs and sexuality.  However, even though Amsterdam seems like a utopia, Youth finds it difficult to pursue his goal. Youth realizes this reality when he moves into an apartment with a free-spirited young woman named Marianna and her friends. Despite this paradise, Youth discovers that he can not achieve his goal because he lacks motivation by not having anything to complain about. Therefore lacking motivation and feeling not accomplished Youth leaves Marianna and Amsterdam behind and heads to Berlin. 

Act two begins in West Berlin as Youth joins street performers who are interested in revolutionary change. Amongst the revolutionaries, Youth starts to develop his identity by fabricating and misrepresenting some parts of his life as a way to fit-in and to be accepted by the other performers. Through this fabrication and misrepresentation, he is able to join the revolutionaries and live amongst them. Not only is he able to join and live amongst them but he also becomes the romantic partner to the revolutionary leader named Desi. In his relation with Desi  Youth begins to have challenges with his identity as he conceals his real identity.

 In addition to the challenges he faces about his identity he is also challenged to think about what is family. While the revolutionaries left home so they could pursue change they still all return home for the holidays. For Youth, this is hard for him to understand because he believes he has nothing at home to return to. Meanwhile, his mother is missing him as she tries to call him to come home, but he refuses to go because he believes that he needs to be in Berlin. However, this refusal was a mistake because shortly after his mother’s pleading she passed away. Youth returns to California for his mother’s funeral. At the funeral Youth delivered the eulogy. Youth and the narrator spend time during the eulogy to reflect on his life, his mistakes, and his triumphs. It is in this reflection that the narrator and Youth decide that there must be something beyond what is real. 

 Analysis of the Freaky Negro

What constitutes as real? What is real? And what does it mean to be real? To be real is to be something that is superficial. Being real is superficial because being real is something that is based on something that is socially constructed. This is to say that for Youth to be really Black or to embody Blackness he must subscribe to hegemonic ideas of Blackness. And, for Youth to be considered a real man he must adhere to hegemonic values of masculinity. However, the reality is despite his best efforts to fit these hegemonic forms of Blackness and masculinity Youth breaks the real through embodying the identity of the Freaky Negro as an alternative to the hegemony. Now, Youth subconsciously embodies this alternative because he still tries to fit the hegemony, however, through his efforts it is apparent he does not fit them. The reality is that Youth fights hegemony through his ontology as he comes of age and passes strange.

Throughout the course of Passing Strange, there are infinite examples of Youth challenging the hegemony through his embodiment of the Freaky Negro. Early in the play, we see Youth challenging the hegemony in his pursuit of Edwina Willimas. Youth’s pursuit of Edwina is captured in a dialogue between the two. In this dialogue, Edwina asks and demands Youth to do certain things in order for him to fit her idea of a Black man which is ultimately the hegemony’s idea, and to each demand and request Youth responds “Yes, Brown Sugar”.  For instance, Edwina asks Youth “ Do you wany uh something this Blessing”?  Youth replies Yes, Brown Sugar”. Edwina then demands Youth that she needs new clothes, he replies “Yes, Brown Sugar”. She then demands him to change his hair and tells him that he needs to “get that B.A. in Communications, from a prestigious Black College”. Edwina then imagines their lives of being married with “ a sprawling two-story house fulla African sculptures from tribes we know nothing about, kente cloth couch covers, and Malcolm X commemorative plates lining the walls of our airy, peach-colored breakfast nook”. To this fantasy, Youth begins to reply “Yes, Brown Suga” but he has a moment of realization where he questions the idea of a breakfast nook. This questioning does not phase Edwina because she proceeds to demand Youth to “ Blacken up a bit”. At this demand, Youth is confused about what Edwina means.  To clear up this confusion Edwina explains to Youth that “ Like not so much that you become un-hireable or anything, but you kinda act too white. You’re not Black enough for me!!! Put a little soul in your stroll” (Stew, 2006, p. 18-19). It is this exchange between Edwina and Youth that we begin to see Youth to challenge hegemonic views of Blackness and masculinity. 

In the “Yes, Brown Sugar” dialogue it is easy to see that Youth does not fit the hegemonic molds of masculinity and Blackness through the way that Edina perceives him. While there may be a mutual attraction between Edwina and Youth there are still ideas that Youth must subscribe to for him to prove that he is a real Black man for Edwina. We see this through the demands and requests that Edwina makes. By saying things like that Youth to buy her new clothes, do his hair in a certain way, graduate from a prestigious Black college, and they have to a certain house with certain furnishings. And on top of all of that Youth still has to “Blacken up” for Edwina.

 It is in this exchange that we begin to understand that there is hegemonic masculinity which says that Youth must financially provide for Edwina in the role of the patriarchal breadwinner. In addition to this idea of masculinity, we also see the idea of a hierarchical Blackness which manifests the allusion in order to be really a Black man one must have a certain haircut, graduate from a certain university, you cannot be unhireable but you cannot be too “white”, and you got to have some soul so that you can ultimately be Black. It is important to note that this exchange takes place between a Black woman and a Black man, however, it is even more crucial to notice how strong the effect of the hegemony is on Black people because not only does the hegemony tell Black people how to live but it also creates the potential for Black people to tell other Black folks how to live through establishing the idea of Blackness. 

Shortly after the dialogue that Youth shared with Edwina, we hear a song from Youth challenging the hegemonic version of masculinity and Blackness as he kicks off his career in punk music. In a song titled Sole Brother Youth grapples with his identity as a Black man. The song is as follows

“1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4. I’m at war with  Negro mores. I’m at war with ghetto norms. My mother stands in doorway beggin’ me to conform. Be a good football-playin’, snazzy dressin’ brother, so the sisters won’t be able to tell me from the others. Yeah, I’m the sole brother- up in this motherfucker. Yeah, I’m the sole brother- up in this motherfucker.  Yeah, I’m the sole brother- up in this motherfucker. Yeah, I’m the sole brother here. So Roots blew your mind? You didn’t know it was that bad? I learned that shit in the third grade. In Miss Medearis’ class. But yer still a buncha slaves. And yer driving me insane. Cuz the whip across your shoulder is connected to your brain” (Stew,  2006, p. 27-28). 

This song sung by Youth is powerful in ways more than one. Let’s begin with the fact that it is a punk rock song. Punk music is unique because  “originally (it was)  used to describe the garage musicians of the ’60’s. Bands like the Sonics were starting up and playing out with no musical or vocal instruction, and often limited skill. Because they didn’t know the rules of music, they were able to break the rules”(Cooper, 2018). With its origins being in rebellion and made from kids who do not follow the rules it makes all the sense why Youth would use punk as a form of self-expression because he himself does not follow the rules that have been established by the hegemonic group. 

 Youth’s rebellious ways are exhibited in his lyrics of Sole Brother. The most potent of these lyrics are at the very beginning of the song. At the beginning of the song Youth starts to outline the ways in which he grapples with his identity.  With beginning his song by saying “ I’m at war with  Negro mores. I’m at war with ghetto norms” ( Stew, 2006, p. 27).  These lyrics demonstrate that Youth is at odds with his identity and the relationship that he has with his identity is a war because he does not subscribe to these hegemonic norms. However, not only is Youth at war with himself he is also at war with other Negros or Black people that are trying to force their ideas of Blackness and masculinity on to him.  For Youth, he realizes that he does not fit these hegemonic forms of masculinity and Blackness because he is not “a good football-playin’, snazzy dressin’ brother”  (Stew, 2006, p. 27).  These ideas that Youth teases out of being a football player and dressing snazzy are the same values that the hegemonic group deems as being really Black and really being a man. However, Youth in his song Sole Brother disrupts these hegemonic values as he grapples with his identity in becoming read as illegible as he embodies the Freaky Negro. 

A third example of Youth embodying the identity of the Freaky Negro can be found in Act 2. In Act 2, we find Youth in Berlin. And it is in Berlin that Youth really becomes himself because he is able to fabricate his identity in order to fit in. When Youth arrives in Berlin he meets some revolutionaries, and his way into joining these individuals is through manufacturing some of the parts of his life so that he appears to be ‘real’ and that he does fit the hegemonic molds of Blackness and masculinity.  In order to do this he tells his life journey in a particular way. He tells these individuals the following.

“Do you know what it’s like to hustle for dimes on the mean streets of South Central?  Ever hear of the Projects? They call it the Projects cuz we all workin’ on a project called “ Just trying live… to see tomorrow!” NOBODY knows the trouble I’ve seen! NOBODY! I come from hell on earth; illeraticy- guns- insanity- decay. And death”.  (Stew, 2006, p. 74).

While Youth did grow up in South Central Los Angeles the reality that he shared with these individuals is a perceived reality that is obviously false. Meaning, yes he did grow up in South  Central Los Angeles but he did not grow up living in the projects. This is to say that yes he lived in South Central and the realities of decay and death do exist, but these realities were not the realities lived for Youth. In fact, he grew up in a nice middle-class religious home with his mother. However, by projecting these realities to the individuals Youth became legible according to hegemonic views of masculinity and Blackness.  Even though he might read as legible to hegemonic standards, he still challenges the hegemony by being able to recognize that he is indeed illegible and in order for him to fit in with these people he has to present himself as legible. And, the way that he presents himself as legible is drawing upon commonly held stereotypes that are based on the essentialism of Black people. This suggests that in order for Black men to be real they must live in decay and around death because of the notions that the hegemonic group suggests what it means to be Black and a man. All this is to say Youth’s ability to recognize his own illegibility to pass as legible  challenges hegemony.

Discussion and Conclusion 

  Moreover, there are ideologies that control our lives and dictate the way in which we live our lives. These ideologies have been birthed out of neoliberal hegemony. And, within this system of neoliberal hegemony, the ideology of individualism is the force that drives us to be competitive and different from each other. Despite this individualism, the hegemonic group tries to categorize individuals and lump these individuals together through essentialism. Essentialism allows for racial stereotypes and definitions of manliness to exist. Within essentialism, we understand that people who belong to the same ethnic group and gender groups share a monolithic identity and experience. However, we know this not to be true because one it’s a ridiculous way to think and two no one person is the same. In fact, people who often challenge this monolithic way of thinking are seen or deemed as weird, inauthentic, and not real. And, this is where we locate Youth to be. Youth is a character in Passing Strange that challenges hegemonic monolithic ways of thinking about masculinity and Blackness, and through this challengeing of these ideas, he embodies the Freaky Negro.  

As a Freaky Negro, we constantly see Youth grapple with his identity as a way to challenge the hegemonic ideas of masculinity and Blackness. In the early part of the musical, we see Youth realizing that in order for him to get Edwina to be his romantic partner he needs to change up his ways and Blacken up. In order to Blacken up, Edwina demands Youth to provide for her, go to a certain college, and not be too white. The irony of Blacking up for Edwina is that Youth not only has to fit the hegemony ideas of masculinity but he also has to fit the hegemony idea of Blackness. 

Next, Youth wrestles with his identity as he begins his punk rock career. And in his lyrics, he sings how he is at war with Negros and ghetto norms. It is with this tension that he challenges legible forms of masculinity because he knows that he does not fit into these norms and it creates difficulties for him in order to live freely. As a way to live freely Youth moves to Amsterdam and Berlin. And, it is in Berlin that Youth finds his identity because he is able to decipher the fact that he is illegible. When he has the recognition he knows that in order to fit in with the revolutionaries he must craft a legible identity of hegeomonic male Blackness. 

All and all each attempt of trying to find his identity Youth challenges the hegemonic views of masculinity and Blackness. Through these challenges Youth embodies the Freaky Negro to disrupt what is thought to be real. Going forward we must challenge what is real like Youth because nothing is really real because the things that we think that control us are all socially constructed. In order, to do this we need to disregard these oppressive systems of thought and live freely. Now, this is no short task and it won’t happen overnight, but if we continue to make pieces of art like Passing Strange we can challenge what is real so that we may liberate ourselves.  


Connell, R. (2001). The Social Organization of Masculinity. The Masculinities Reader, 30-50.

DeFrantz, T. F. (2017). I Am Black: (you have to be willing to not know). Theater, 47(2), 9–21.

DuBois, W. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk.

Ginsberg, E. K. (1996). Passing and the fictions of identity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Hernandez, E. (2007, May 1). New Rock Musical Passing Strange Hits the Public Theater Stage May 1. Retrieved from

League, T. B. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Mccune, J. (2012). A Good Black Manhood is Hard to Find: Toward a More Transgressive Reading Practices. Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men, 1(1), 121. doi: 10.2979/spectrum.1.1.121

Neal, M. (2013). Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities. New York; London: NYU Press. Retrieved from

Stew. Passing Strange. (2006).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: