PIX 11 News

Washington Heights community faces issues of racism through theater

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, Manhattan — Washington Heights is a melting pot community, there is no doubt about that.

However, more than 75% of the population is of some kind of Latino decent. If you take a stroll down the street - you can hear conversations in so many different Spanish dialects, and explore so many different cuisines. Yet, those in this community deal with issues of racism every day from members of their own community.

Long before Donald Trump made disparaging comments about Mexicans when he announced his presidency, those who live up in the Heights were tackling the issues of racism in a very unique way. It all begins in the tiny office of The People's Theatre.

"Our focal point is to use theater as a tool to create social change," says Mino Lora, the co-executive director of The People's Theatre.

The idea is to take a real-life encounter of a racism and transform it to a stage production presented to an audience.

Yet, unlike other plays, the audience members are not just spectators. The audience must find solutions to the problem presented to them.

"A lot of people in authority who see a Latino man walking at night coming from work, may think he's coming from a corner," says Peter Nunez, an actor who's real-life encounter is being acted out on the stage.

Nunez was a teacher for the Department of Education. Though the play titled "Better Than You," the audience sees how Nunez dealt with a white principal who didn't appreciate him speaking Spanish in the classroom. The principal belittled the teacher in the classroom in front of students, until Nunez eventually lost his job.

The diverse audience then discussed ways that this could have been handled differently and presented them to the entire crowd. Different people from different backgrounds working together for a positive change.