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Welcome to Queendom: Immersive Play Caps Black History Month at Barry

Updated: Mar 7

By Diana Morose


The phrase “forty acres and a mule” refers to the promise that newly freed slaves would be given reparations after the Civil War in 1865. Dr. Juhanna Roger’s play, “Queendom,” came to Barry Feb. 22 and imagines what would have happened if that promise had been fulfilled. 

Dr. Juhanna Rogers talking about her play "Queendom."
Photo Credit to Celeste Landeros

Rogers hails from Newark, New Jersey but is currently based in New York where the idea for “Queendom” first sparked. She talks about how the idea came to her through a combination of being invited to the Stone Quarry Hill Art Park’s Visiting Artist Program and the Derek Chauvin trial that was happening around the same time in 2021, which led to her coming up with the idea of a play centered on the Black experience and what can be done when you’re given the opportunity to thrive.


Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was put on trial after the murder of George Floyd during his arrest on May 25, 2020. Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds, asphyxiating him and sparking global protests over racial injustice and police brutality. He was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter on April 20, 2021. 

“The art park was sitting on 104 acres. It was massive and beautiful. I asked them ‘How do you all just have this much land and space?’ So, I stayed there, and the Derek Chauvin trial was ongoing and so I started to have this idea,” said Rogers. “Imagine what my ancestors would’ve had if they had been given the land they were promised.” 

The play is an immersive, interactive performance where the audience plays a part in the experience. The performance is a collaboration between the courses ENG-427: Black Women Writers and HUM-397: Voices of Our People — both taught by Professor Celeste Landeros who directed the play and invited Dr. Rogers to Barry.  

Photo Credit to Celeste Landeros

Students in each of the classes participated by acting in the play or by contributing to the immersive experience outdoors. 

The play started outside Weber Hall where people could go around to different stations set up in the area symbolized by animals represented in Zora Neale Hurston’s “Mules and Men.” The stations included drummers, storytellers, singers and the actors in the play who guided people around. 

Rogers hopes the play will reconcile the past and the present of viewers.

“When we talk about slavery and things like that, oftentimes I don’t think we think deeply enough about who they were as people. We talk about how they were brought here, and we see the chains and the whips, but we don’t think about the fact that they had professions,” Rogers said. “We were blacksmiths and farmers, and we had our own knowledge.”

Photo Credit to Celeste Landeros

The event was attended by representatives of South Florida People of Color (SFPoC), a non-profit dedicated to uplifting South Florida’s culturally diverse communities through education, dialogue and advocacy while also fostering equity and inclusivity. Executive Director, Roni Bennett, and JoHanna Thompson, an Executive Co-Director for Florida Restorative Justice Association were in attendance.

After the performance ended, Thompson led a dialogue with the help of Dr. Pamela Hall, a Barry associate professor of psychology, which allowed everyone in attendance to reflect on the meaning behind the play and the significance of the “forty acres and a mule” promise. 

“What I took from the experience is that ‘Queendom’ starts a conversation that gives us the opportunity to come together and do a traditional town hall style meeting to talk about what it is that we can do differently and then also to hear from each other what's important?” Thompson said.

Photo Credit to Diana Morose

Sainah LaFortune, a sophomore majoring in nursing, participated in the play as one of the actors. She is one of the students currently taking the Black Women Writer’s class and this play marked her first charge into acting.


“I think the play came together just right. We had a lot of fun, and it was very much improvised, but it was still charismatic and comical and authentic,” LaFortune said.

The students gave a memorable performance, and the audience was treated to lemonade and sweet potato pie at the closing while everyone was given the chance to say what “Queendom” meant to them.

Dr. Rogers hopes to come back and make “Queendom” bigger and better than ever. She dreams of the play making its way to other cities, to Broadway and even abroad.

“Go big or go home,” she said. 


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