Afrocentric Theatre, Music, Culture and Business

So You Think I’m Crazy – Interview (18-21 Sept) So You Think I’m Crazy – Interview (18-21 Sept)
So You Think I’m Crazy – Interview (18-21 Sept)

So U think I’m Crazy? Looks at mental health, family and the streets of London. EBONYONLINE.NET caught up with the writer Ekanem Hines to talk psychiatry, Darwinism and the legacies of slavery.


EOL: Tell us briefly what the play is about?

EH: “So U Think I’m Crazy?” is a therapeutic drama production. The play is therapeutic because after each production there is a panel of healthcare specialists to facilitate the Q&A’s, giving the audience an opportunity to talk about the emotional impact of the play and how they feel about it. I recognise that some in the audience might be emotionally affected, so they are sign-posted to various mental health support services in the local area.


“So U Think I’m Crazy?” captures the emotional journey of a young Black man’s experience of being detained in a psychiatric hospital through the eyes of other professionals and patients he has contact with.


I believe that because the present can only be understood in terms of the recurring expression of the past and historical events, the play weaves one through different traumatic experiences which the lead cast member (Mr X) has not emotionally explored. This implodes into a full-blown mental health crisis but the question is who is really crazy?


This is told through the medium of poetry, dialogue; music and dance.


EOL: What inspired you to write the story?

EH: The story is a real life experience which many people should be able to relate to. Mental health is one of our greatest taboos. Swept under the carpet. I believe that I’m inspired ultimately from the Grace of God.


EOL: Why was it important to tell it from the users/carers point of view?

EH: As a carer it is important to be an integral part of any care-plan. More often than not their views are ignored. The service users are often dismissed as not capable of articulated their views.


One of the objectives of the play is that we believe we can advocate and in some instances become the “Voice” of those that are “Voiceless”.


EOL: Why do you think black people are disproportionately represented in the mental health system?

EH: In my view (author) UK is endemically, systematically, entrenched in racist ideology. This dates way back to the 17th and 18th century particular in the psychiatric world of Darwinism and Eugenics, where racist ideologies were embedded in scientific theory.


Without going too deep, in my opinion, the correlation of psychiatry and racism go hand in hand. Racism has been socially constructed over hundreds of years and its origins are lost in the history of Western culture.


Racism is a major form of oppression and impacts at every level in society. “Black people” share a unique experience of oppression because of their skin colour.


It is carried out in the system of education, advertising, propaganda, political manipulation, economic pressure, and the ordinary ‘common sense’ of a person on the street.


Psychiatry became an instrument of social and political debate based on racist ideology.


Visual racial stereotypes seeped into normality. The historical legacy of African people in slavery was the most potent visual perception of an African imagery; sexual predators; aggressive; promiscuous; happy go lucky; muggers; Yardies; servile; rolling eyes; chattering teeth; dangerous; savages; gangsters and exaggerated myths of over sexualized behaviour and a menace to white women.


It is hardly surprising that western psychiatry played an integral part in perpetuated these myths.


These facts are more than a general coincidence and cannot be divorced from the distorted perceptions of racial stereotypes and misdiagnosis of the psychosis of mental illness.


Whether covert or overt racial stereotype are woven into the fabric of British society and filter through to assessments.


EOL: What in your view can be done to remedy this?

EH: In a nutshell a complete overhaul of a “mind-set” which has been indoctrinated into a distorted perception of the “Black Community”.


Re-EDUCATION; EDUCATION AND MORE EDUCATION – A well-known scholar “WADE NOBLE’ stated “until we have the power to define our own reality things will remain the same.”


EOL: Is there institutional racism in the mental health system?

EH: Short and sweet – of course there is!


EOL: What is your background and how did you get into writing/directing etc.?

EH: My profession before retiring was a professional social worker specialising in child protection and mental health.


I’ve had no formal experience of theatre/directing etc.; “I guess I had the ability of insight and being perceptive”.


EOL: Tell us about Know My Mind (KMM) productions and your plans for the future?

EH: KMM is a small community therapeutic/educational theatre group which explores the issues of mental – ill health from a service users’ and a carer’s perspective surrounding the mental health system in Britain today. KMM uses creative theatre to bring to life complex issues faced in the community.


As for the future, it will be guided by God who has kept me so far.


‘So U think I’m Crazy?’  18 – 21 Sept,  OvalHouse Theatre, 52-54 Kennington, Oval, London, SE11 5SW. 7pm. £10-£12 For details visit www.ovalhouse.com

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