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Jomama Jones delivers wisdom, hope & love

“Black Light” aims to re-energize black Americans with soul and spirit

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Jomama Jones delivers wisdom, hope & love
Daniel Alexander Jones as Jomama Jones in "Black Light" PHOTO: Tammy Shell, The Public Theater courtesy Matt Ross PR

When performance artist, playwright and educator Daniel Alexander Jones created his onstage alter ego Jomama Jones, Jomama wasn’t so much made as discovered. The transcendent diva was born from Jones’ memories of watching “Soul Train” as a child and imitating the music with his friend. Now, as Jomama Jones, he imparts the same wisdom, energy and spirit on his audiences as the soul stars of the 1970s and ’80s.

Jomama Jones sashays onto the American Repertory Theater’s Oberon stage Sept. 19 through 29 in her performance of “Black Light.” The show uses original songs, narration and community conversations, all infused by the spirit of black history and culture, to foster a space of positive energy and healing during a tumultuous political moment. Jones says he wrote the show just before the 2016 election and it has only become more necessary since.

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“‘Black Light’ in a way became this very sacred experience for me and for those people who came through to meditate on this question of the crossroads in America. And I draw a lot of the mythology of the crossroads from black American culture,” says Jones. “No two shows are alike.”

Though the music is all original in the show, it’s inspired by the melodies of Prince, Diana Ross, Tina Turner and other divas of color. Jomama’s stories delve into periods when black Americans have pursued their dreams of a different world, for example, during the Great Migration when families had to negotiate both their new lives in urban centers and their families still rooted in the South.

Jones says that the loss of hope for a better future is one of the biggest casualties of strenuous social moments like the current one in America. His goal with “Black Light” is to restore that seed of hope that things will be better down the road. “This is very particular for black Americans. It has always been in our capacity to imagine transformation. That has been the bedrock of our ability to achieve it in real life,” says Jones. “I think it’s so important to make the work of restoring our imaginations central to our transformative political action.”

On Sept. 12 at 6 p.m., Jones will host a free community conversation at Hibernian Hall to discuss his journey as an artist, his work as Jomama and the way black culture has influenced “Black Light.” Attendees can RSVP on the A.R.T. website.

“My primary hope is that we are reminded that we have more choice, more agency, than it may seem that we have,” says Jones. “We have, therefore, responsibility to imagine what can be and then to take steps to bring what we imagine into being. None of that work has to be done alone.”