Sugar in Our Wounds—LGBTQ African Slaves in U.S. History - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Friday, June 29, 2018

Sugar in Our Wounds—LGBTQ African Slaves in U.S. History

Sugar in Our Wounds—LGBTQ African Slaves in U.S. History

The world premiere of Donja R. Love's drama Sugar in Our Wounds at Manhattan Theatre Club directed by Saheem Ali and stars Sheldon Best as James, Stephanie Berry as Aunt Mama, Fern Cozine as Isabel, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart as Mattie, and Chinaza Uche as Henry.

Sugar in Our Wounds is a powerful story, taking a look into the lives of LGBTQ African slaves in the deep south.  In the play, a mystical tree stretches toward heaven and protects James (Sheldon Best), a young slave with a passion for education, living on a plantation. When a brooding stranger arrives, James (Chinaza Uche ) and his makeshift family take the man in—the start of an unexpected bond and striking romance.

Here is what Sheldon Best who plays Henry, the spiritually connected African slave who shares a supernatural connection with a tree, located on the plantation had to share about the play, LGBTQ rights and more. 

Amsterdam News:  What was your first reaction when you read Sugar in Our Wounds?

Sheldon Best:
When I first read the play, I was struck by how it was both a story I had never heard told before and yet it felt deeply familiar. It at once honored the lives of those people who were both enslaved and who were also queer. It focused on the quiet moments that are often overlooked when we think about enslaved people as a whole: their hopes, the things that made them laugh, what they did with their downtime, the ways they supported each other, creating makeshift homes and families, all the while being true to the world they lived in and the choices they had to make in order to survive that world. This made me connect so strongly with the play and the character that all I could think for the next few weeks was, "I need to tell this story."

AN:  Why is telling LGBTQ Black history so important or is it important, to you?

SB:  It's incredibly important because that history resists the effort to destroy and erase LGBTQ black people, both literally and from the historical record. As long as people have been people, queer people have been queer. The ways societies have viewed queer people have differed across the world and throughout history, but there are some who think that black people were somehow exempt from this. This way of thinking has a very dangerous connotation: that homosexuality is a human phenomenon, but black people did not experience it until recently in history is to say that black people have not been fully human until recently in history. And each time black people's entire humanity has been not been accepted and celebrated, it has been used to subjugate us. So righting the false belief that queer black people do not exist now or did not exist in the past is a matter of vital importance if we want to live in a world where what happened to our ancestors stops happening now.
Chinaza Uche plays Henry.  A determined African slave whose desire to be reunited with his "people" is sidelined when he meets James and falls in love. 

AN:  What was your first reaction when you read the material?

Chinaza Uche: 
That it was amazing. That I loved Donja. I was so moved. It’s just a beautiful play. Full of laughter and love and hardship about the often forgotten ancestors who built this country. About them as humans, not just as an idea.  When I think of the kind of work I want to support and be a part of - this is it. 

AN:  Why is telling LGBTQ BLACK history so important or is it important, to you?

If you erase a people’s history. Then you are effectively attempting to erase them. I think it’s really important to let folks know you been here since the beginning of time, so how dare folks challenge the validity of your existence now.

‘Sugar in Our Wounds’ now playing at Manhattan Theater Club / Stage II Studio; 150 seats; $30 top. 

Running time: ONE HOUR, 45 MIN.

Please check out the review at

#LGBTQ #BLACKLGBTQ #Theater #ChinazaUche #ManhattanTheaterClub

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