A petition to cancel a CUNY school production of an opera about Emmett Till written by a white woman gained momentum on Saturday.
More than 11,000 people had signed the appeal to close the curtains on “Emmett Till, A New American Opera” next week at John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater, agreeing with a student who said the show was about the Librettist Clare Coss “White Debt.”
Emmett Till was 14 when he was allegedly lynched Flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. His brutal assassination became a rallying cry in the civil rights movement.
The play, written by Coss and composed by Mary D. Watkins, who is black, “explores issues such as social justice, the flaws in the justice system, white silence and alliance, racial inequality and the complexities of human experience,” according to his summary.
Petition author Mya Bishop The opera is said to frame the tragedy through the eyes of a “fictional progressive white woman,” a teacher on the production.
“Clare Coss creatively focused on her white guilt by using this play to tell the racially motivated brutal torture and murder of a 14-year-old child about her white self and white feelings,” Bishop wrote.
A representative for Coss and Watkins said Bishop’s claim that the story revolved around the teacher was incorrect and said that the plot actually revolves around Till’s activist mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.
The white teacher “represents the concepts of white silence and white supremacy,” Nina Flowers told The Post.
Coss, 86, gave her own statement about what inspired her and Watkins to collaborate on the opera.
“Mary was 15 in 1955 and I was 20 — each of us was deeply and differently affected by the barbaric lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta and the failure of justice,” she wrote.
Watkins also slammed the petitioners and the thousands who signed up in a statement.
“It is an insult to me as a black woman and to the African American members of the company,” she wrote.
When asked for comment, a CUNY spokesman said the opera was an “outside production” and declined to comment.
The producers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.
Tickets for the two-night run of the show were available Saturday online.
https://nypost.com/2022/03/20/nycs-john-jay-college-student-mya-bishop-calls-to-cancel-emmett-till-play-by-clare-coss/ Mya Bishop, a student at John Jay College in NYC, calls to cancel Emmett Till’s performance of Clare Coss