“You Think We Fixta Git up off Dis Block for Real?”
Blackness, Precariousness, and Resistance in Antoinette Nwandu’s “Pass Over”
Keywords:Pass Over, Blackness, Antoinette Nwandu, Spike Lee, Black Studies
The process of othering of black people in the US can be traced back to the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the identity produced by such legacy is constantly haunted by a past—that of slavery and segregation—and by a present—that of systemic racism—that cage it in the slave ship, in the plantation, in the ghetto. Read in this light, Black condition is an ongoing process of mourning and awakening in which identity formation entails a peculiar form of agency, a “wake work”—in Christina Sharpe's words—capable of rupturing and subverting and, therefore, of imagining new ways to deal with the afterlife of slavery.
My paper analyzes how the persistence of systemic antiblackness urges black people to engage the paradox of living within a transgenerational grief while rupturing it. To do so, I will examine the play Pass Over by Antoinette Nwandu, in its filmed version by Spike Lee (2018), which combines Beckettian and Biblical themes to depict Black condition as a combination of irreconcilable opposites and shows how, to borrow from the opening paragraph of Fred Moten’s In the Break, “the history of blackness is testament to the fact that objects can and do resist.” In the play, Moses and Kitch are stuck in a block of Chicago, determined to pass over and “rise up to their full potential,” like Jewish people in the Exodus. Despite their efforts, their dreams of the promised land collide with US reality and the objectified identity that has been forced on them.
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