Media Press Kit

Joint Statement by No Blackface Vancouver and Ajyal Theatrical Group

November 5th 2019

No Blackface Vancouver and Ajyal Theatrical Group are pleased to release this joint statement on the cancellation of “Double Trouble – Im Hussein” in Vancouver, BC, on unceded and occupied Coast Salish Territories. Both groups have been in communication with the intention of addressing harm and restoring relations among all parties and communities involved. It is our hope that by doing the difficult work of engaging each other in dialogue, being open to learning, and refusing to fall into patterns of defensiveness that this process can serve as an example of how communities can hold each other accountable in a manner that allows for positive change and growth. 

We recognize that the use of blackface is a global practice rooted in anti-Black racism and is a result of wider racist social structures that harm Black communities both historically and in the present day. It is important to note that blackface is widely found in media and entertainment across the Arabic-speaking world and in most cases, is not understood to be offensive.

The cancellation of the play “Double Trouble – Im Hussein” due to the use of blackface is an example of the difference between intent and impact. No Blackface Vancouver does not doubt that Im Hussein & Ajyal Theatrical Group had positive intentions to educate the Arabic speaking community about racism through the use of theater. However, their use of blackface, no matter how well-intentioned, is not justified and is in fact harmful. 

A core tenet of the mission statement of the Ajyal Theatrical Group, created by Najee Mondalek in 1988, is to “collaborate with human and social services organizations that wish to use the performing arts to address issues of their concern.” Mr. Mondalek and his cast members recognize that a thin line separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.

Therefore, the Ajyal Theatrical Group apologizes for the impact of using blackface in “Double Trouble – Im Hussein” and will not use blackface in any of its future productions. 

Ajyal Theatrical Group states that, while in pre-production for “Double Trouble – Im Hussein,” the group hoped to find an Arabic-speaking Black actor for the part in question;but that unfortunately, no such person was found during casting. To fulfill the role in the play, the part went to an actor who painted his face. Based on feedback from fellow actors, Ajyal stopped using blackface onstage after April 2018. Online photos and videos of the actor in blackface had been taken prior to this date. Regretfully, as “Double Trouble – Im Hussein” continued its tour, Ajyal failed to remove blackface from its promotional materials.The Ajyal Theatrical Group appreciates this opportunity to deepen their understanding and further their commitment to promote an end to racism.

We would like to recognize and thank the Muslim women of Black and Black-Arab descent that lead this campaign and the Muslim women of Arab and South Asian descent who worked hard to see it through. We recognize the costs incurred by the campaign organizers who had to take time away from their lives and work to give attention to this matter. 

No Blackface Vancouver would also like to thank the Surrey School Board, who oversees the Bell Performing Arts Centre, for taking No Blackface Vancouver’s concerns seriously, investigating the matter on short notice and coming to the decision that blackface, regardless of intent, cannot be given a stage in our communities. The Surrey School Board has stated in its communication with No Blackface Vancouver that they will be reviewing their venue booking process to ensure that this type of occurrence does not happen again. Lastly, we thank our Vancouver communities for their support and patience as we went about this important work.

No Blackface Vancouver and Ajyal Theatrical Group will continue to engage in conversation about accountability and will explore hosting “Double Trouble – Im Hussein” in Vancouver, BC in the future. No Blackface Vancouver is looking forward to hosting a community round-table on the evening of November 22nd to allow community members the opportunity to engage in dialogue and reflection on this process (venue TBD). We are especially proud of these developments as it is our collective hope that through this community work, a better understanding of the harmful reality of blackface can be recognized not only in North American communities but in communities across the world.

Media Contact:

No Blackface Vancouver can be reached at (236) 868-8310 or emailed at noblackfacevancouver@gmail.com.


Racist Play “Im Hussein Double Trouble” to be staged November 2nd at Bell Performing Arts Centre

By No Blackface Vancouver

October 31st 2019

On October 31st 2019 the community group No Blackface Vancouver was formed by a group of concerned citizens in Metro Vancouver, on unceded and occupied Coast Salish Territories. It has come to this group’s attention that the Bell Performing Arts Centre will host a play titled “Im Hussein Double Trouble” on Nov 2nd, 2019 at 8pm. We are organizing to request that Metro Vancouver communities move quickly to ensure that this play is not staged due to its clearly advertised use of:

  • blackface;
  • the perpetuation of racist, anti-Black, anti-African (anti-Nigerian) and Orientalist narratives and tropes; and
  • the inappropriate use of stereotypically exaggerated African and Chinese costume.

As a multicultural Metro Vancouver population, we recognize the importance of hosting diverse artistic productions. However, the Im Hussein & Ajyal Theatrical Group website and social media pages for “Im Hussein Double Trouble” has a clear track record of using blackface and culturally appropriated traditional costumes, which is unacceptable and reinforces harmful racial hierarchies. It is clear that any attempt by the Group to portray racism in a humorous light or satirical light falls short of any productive anti-racist work that may be intended and, in fact, minimizes the harmful impacts and forms of violence that directly target our racialized communities. 

As of October 31st at 11:30 p.m. PST multiple attempts by independent members of the community to contact Bell Performing Arts Centre and the Theatrical Group at the center of this issue directly via phone have been met with: (a) the Bell Performing Arts Center claiming it is simply renting a venue and is not responsible for the content of what is staged in its space; and (b) the Im Hussein & Ajyal Theatrical Group insisting, despite all evidence to the contrary, that the content of their play is intended to address anti-racism. 

No Blackface Vancouver has also emailed each of the Surrey School District Board of Education Trustees and we expect to hear back from them soon.

Media Contact:

No Blackface Vancouver can be reached at (236) 868-8310 or emailed at noblackfacevancouver@gmail.com.

We hope to support and promote community art and dialogue that uplifts our diverse Metro Vancouver communities, without putting any Black, African, Chinese or racialized community in harm’s way. 

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