By: Suzie Balabuch

The controversial poster in question...

The controversial poster in question…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But what if those words are taken out of context? This was the problem facing the duo behind The Black Jew Dialogues, a travelling comedy show recently put on at Hart House.

U of T’s Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office (ARCDO), a co-sponsor of the show, asked the duo to replace the picture on their original poster, which showed white comedian Larry Jay Tish sporting an afro wig, and black comedian Ron Jones wearing a yarmulke. Until then, the poster had been the subject of only one complaint in the production’s six-year history. The show’s stated goal is to examine cultural stereotypes and open up a dialogue on racism.

Sandra Carnegie-Douglas of the ARCDO said the poster was not actually banned, as some other media outlets have reported. However, the ARCDO decided that the poster “needed to be contextualized with additional explanation.”

“The poster was not banned from campus. In fact, it was used in a press release which explained the full event and it was also used as the front cover of the program that was distributed to attendees at the event, where the dialogue would take place and provide context.”

Carnegie-Douglas added, “A poster with a different image was used to promote the event, without objection from the performers, who have received similar concerns in the past.”

Clarice Mporamazina, Secretary of U of T’s African Students’ Association, corroborated the ARCDO’s version of events. The ASA had been invited to the view the performance, and according to Ms. Mporamazina, the poster as well as the performance had elements of cultural stereotypes that she did not feel comfortable with.

“It’s all about stereotypes. All the stereotypes they use, I felt like they were trying to shock. I was also not happy about it. The white comedian was the one wearing the afro. I thought it was a limiting image of black people, how they represent the black person as just an afro– I didn’t like it.”

However, Ms. Mporamazina went on to say that Tish and Jones stayed true to the premise of opening up dialogue about racial and cultural stereotypes.

“There was nothing racist about the whole show. They definitely had good goals. They wanted people to stay to the end so that we could talk about all the stereotypes presented and so that we could break them down.”

Despite a perhaps misleading event poster, Ms. Mporamazina was able to see beyond the dispute and on to a different approach to the issue at hand.

“I would definitely use a different approach. When it comes to representing those two groups– the way they did it was very simplistic and stereotypical. I would use something less simple. The two groups have so much history and cultural differences that it’s not easy to represent them with one image. I don’t know if I would even use an image.”

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