PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The New Freedom Theatre has a long legacy of Black excellence in the arts.
"What we do now is we chronicle African-American history through the performing arts," says Karl "Dice Raw" Jenkins, CEO of the New Freedom Theatre.
Jenkins was a student in the 1990s and became CEO in 2020. During COVID, he started a streaming service for the theatre's productions.
"It's still going even after COVID, because people want to see it internationally," he says.
In addition, he says they want to let people know that Freedom Theatre's coming back.
Since the late 1960s, the theatre has been the staging ground for a long list of superstars, like Walter Dallas, Leslie Odom Jr. and Jenkins himself, known for his work in the music industry.
Jenkins says he met The Roots and started recording with them, going on to produce some of their records.
He returned to his theatre roots, as an executive producer and actor in the New Freedom Theatre's streaming production of The Last Jimmy, which he describes as "a hip-hop odyssey."
He says the production explores the problems of mass incarceration, heavily inspired by Dr. Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow.
Jenkins plays Jimmy, a criminal behind bars, that's determined to break the chain of incarceration.
"It's about the disconnect between African American fathers and sons. It's about the disconnect between African American males and society," says Jenkins.
Jenkins also wrote and produced Forgotten Founding Fathers, showcasing African American heroes from the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and the Reconstruction era.
"There are these moments in history where African Americans did mind blowing things," he says, citing people like Wentworth Cheswell, Blanche Bruce and Crispus Attucks.
Jenkins says heroes like these need to be honed in on and spoke about.
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