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Long Island

LI theater group seeks to bridge divide in community

Shadrack Boakye, who came to Brentwood as a refugee from Liberia, Africa, now writes and directs youth-oriented plays on Long Island with the Truth Urban Theater Group. His current play, "Viva Africa," a modern day, African-themed West Side Story, is playing at the Wyandanch Memorial High School on Oct. 13, 14 and 15. For more information visit: http://www.thetruthutg.com/viva-africa.html (Credit: Newsday / Jeffrey Basinger)

In the spirit of the musical, "West Side Story," Shadrack Boakye’s play "Viva Africa" looks at two families, two generations and one continuing struggle to overcome the racial divide between Hispanics and African-Americans.

Boakye, a refugee from Liberia came to Brentwood with his family to escape the violence of his homeland. He found inspiration in a community plagued with fear, most recently after the suspected gang-related death of four high school students. Boakye founded The Truth Urban Theater Group in 2008, which is performing "Viva Africa" at Wyandanch Memorial High School.

“The community that I come from, which is Brentwood, a lot of people feel there are just drugs and violence. There are so many stories to Brentwood that people just don’t get a chance to hear,” Boakye said.

"Viva Africa" focuses on the divide between African Americans and Hispanics on Long Island. It’s about how prejudice is passed from one generation to the next as the two families, who stood together during the civil rights movement, now fight each other for power through their children.

Boakye writes and directs youth-oriented plays on Long Island with The Truth Urban Theater Group, also known as The Truth. The productions are a mix of drama, poetry and drums, and  they focus on showing the connections between people of different ethnicities and backgrounds.

“Brentwood is bigger, much bigger, than anybody could even imagine,” Boakye said. “Right here is our form of protest. Being here, being able to build' Viva Africa.' Being able to take it to a place that’s unimaginable.”

"Viva Africa" will be finishing up its run at Wyandanch Memorial High School on Oct. 14 and 15 and will head to Bellport Boys & Girls Club on Oct. 22 and Nov. 5. For more information visit: http://www.thetruthutg.com/viva-africa.html.

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