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Mya Bishop, a student at John Jay College in New York, calls for the cancellation of Emmett Till’s play by Clare Coss


A petition to cancel a CUNY school production of an opera about Emmett Till written by a white woman was gaining momentum on Saturday.

More than 11,000 people signed the call to close the curtains on ‘Emmett Till, A New American Opera’ at John Jay College’s Gerald W. Lynch Theater next week, agreeing with a student who said the show was about librettist Clare Coss’ “white guilt.

Emmett Till was 14 when he was lynched for allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955. His brutal murder became a rallying cry in the civil rights movement.

The play, written by Coss and composed by Mary D. Watkins, who is black, “explores themes of social justice, flaws in the justice system, white silence and covenant, racial inequality, and the complexities of ‘human experience,’ according to its synopsis.

The author of the petition, Mya Bishop, alleged that the opera frames the tragedy through the eyes of a “fictional progressive white woman”, a teacher in the production.

More than 11,000 people have signed the petition to end ‘Emmett Till, A New American Opera’ at the Gerald W Lynch Theatre.
Archive Bettmann

“Clare Coss creatively centered her white guilt in using this piece to do the racially motivated brutal torture and murder of a 14-year-old child about her white self and white feelings,” Bishop wrote.

A representative for Coss and Watkins said Bishop’s claim that the story centers on the teacher is incorrect, saying the plot actually centers on Till’s activist mother, Mamie Till-Mobley.

The white professor “represents the concepts of white silence and white supremacy,” Nina Flowers told The Post.

Coss, 86, released her own statement about what inspired her and Watkins to collaborate on the opera.

“Mary was 15 in 1955 and I was 20 – each of us deeply and differently affected by the barbaric lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in the Mississippi Delta and the failure of justice,” a- she writes.

The Emmett Till opera, which was to be held at the Gerald W Lynch Theatre, was called out by a student who said he framed the tragedy through the eyes of a "progressive white woman."
The Emmett Till opera, which was to be held at the Gerald W Lynch Theatre, was called out by a student who said he framed the tragedy through the eyes of a progressive white woman.
Gerald W Lynch Theater

Watkins also criticized the petitioner and the thousands of people who signed in a statement.

“This is an insult to me as a black woman and to members of the company who are African American,” she wrote.

Emmett Till, who was 14 when he died, was lynched for allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955
Emmett Till, who was 14 when he died, was lynched for allegedly flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955.
Archive Bettmann

When contacted for comment, a CUNY spokesperson said the opera was an “outside production” and declined to comment.

The producers did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.

Tickets for both nights of the show were available online on Saturday.

New York Post

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remon

Passionate troublemaker. Amateur gamer. Lifelong alcohol specialist. Social media nerd. Thinker
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