Lots Of Talking About White Privilege

The conversation of white privilege is becoming more commonly discussed. Even Bill O’Reilly has addressed the topic. On the one hand, this is good news. If we are to dismantle white privilege we certainly need to know what it is. However, there’s another side to how these conversations are happening that perhaps isn’t as beneficial as it could be. There were two recent articles about discussing white privilege in private schools that illustrate the positive and negative aspects to how we go about engaging in this discussion.

From the NYTimes


from Salon

Reading both I can’t help but think about how human nature will have us deal with our problems, yet not really transform it. We sometimes create elaborate ways to avoid taking actions around our issues. Often at first attempt we will deny the issue. We’re all familiar with denial and how well that works out (please read the sarcasm). Then perhaps we’ll be comfortable enough with it to talk about it and we may even make jokes about it. This is a bit like ironic racism. You may have noticed this happening at the 2015 Oscars. Finally, one of our last efforts at looking at our problems while refusing to do anything about it is through deep analysis. We become absolute experts on our problems. We have diagnosed the problem, we may even know the complicated vocabulary around it, and we sound very intelligent about our problems. Still, there are no actions taken in terms of eradicating the problem. I’m hoping the beginning discussions around white privilege will convert to actionable problem solving in the near future.

Company Cypher presents a reading of GUTTING by Jeremy Kamps

Invitation to GUTTING by Jeremy KampsCompany Cypher is proud to announce the next play featured in our Play Reading Series is Gutting by Jeremy Kamps. Three years after Hurricane Katrina, the wounds of New Orleans’s Lower 9th Ward continue to fester. While the rest of the country’s attention drifts, the neighborhood’s residents are left to repair the damage from the inside out. As their attempts at renewal leave a path of destruction in their wake, fourteen-year-old runaway Kali bears witness to what the flood waters left behind.

Gutting offers us the opportunity to explore and acknowledge the inspiring voices of post-Katrina New Orleans. Gutting is a powerful piece of theater that is both entertaining while boldly sharing a community struggling to be heard. Their humanity is at stake, as the world fails to honor and value their existence.

Please join us for this free reading presented at New York Theater Workshop (83 East 4th Street) on Tuesday, June 3rd at 7pm.

Directed by Ryan Quinn and starring Felipe Bonilla, Sarita Covington, Arthur French, Brian Tyree Henry, Aja Naomi King, Will Manning and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart.

Reserving tickets are recommended. Please click here to RSVP.





Company Cypher is extremely thankful to SPARC, the community of the Center at the Red Oak and everyone who came out to witness Legacy Stories : Where Generations Meet!

Seniors Flier EnglishThe participants of the program brilliantly shared and performed their personal stories, through story telling, music and poetry. The audience laughed, cried, cheered “bravo” and even stepped up to the mic to share themselves!

photo-1What a powerful community!

Announcing Our Next Show! Paper Dolls On Concrete!

Explores what it means To be a woman or a girl…
Delve into our urban landscape
And celebrate the close of
Women’s History month
  with a weekend of theater,
featuring two original plays.

produced by Company Cypher 

(Company Cypher is an arts organization that uses theater & arts-education to end racism & colorism)
PIECES OF SHE is an interactive, all wom*n of color, experimental theatre piece, dedicated to the wom*n before and after us and all the wom*n around us. Directed by Renee Rises and Starr Kirkland.
Friday & Saturday, March 28th & 29th @ 8pm
Women Step Up! is an original play created and performed by the youth participants of Cyphering Education for Girls!
Cyphering Education for Girls is a new arts-education leadership program, launched by Company Cypher that builds participants’ self-esteem and leadership skills through a workshop series that explores their experiences of racial and skin-color identity. Workshop sessions culminate in a public performance and the sharing of ideas for community projects that will mobilize youth to end discrimination.
Sunday, March 30th @ 2:00 pm
WOW Cafe Theater,  59-61 East 4th Street
$10 Suggested Donation
email companycypher@gmail.com to rsvp

Announcing the next Cypher Slam!


December 5th @ 8:00 pm

Attention poets and poetry lovers! The new poetry slam in the city called The Cypher Slam is back again. Sign up to compete for a cash prize or just come support and vote for the best poet of the night. This poetry slam will feature a live Jazz Trio jamming and flowing with each artist throughout the night.

***This event is being presented courtesy of Company Cypher and ArtLov(H)er.

WOW Cafe Theater, 59-61 East 4th Street(btwn Bowery & 2nd)  

$10 Suggested Donation

RSVP for tickets by emailing companycypher@gmail.com

Doors open at 7:45. Arrive early to sign up to slam. Winner receives a cash prize!

Enjoy the poem below from our reigning champion JSansChez!


This is a womanifesta

because I am more then the sum of my parts

because some of my parts cause malfunctions to the thinking process

and others don’t process respect  as a right I was born with

when the temperature reaches 75 or higher

any exposed flesh on city streets

increases the catcalls of desire

As if they never had a mother, sister, aunt, or daughter

because  a Full sized real live grown woman wasn’t made to contort to fit into catagories.

I crush the.boxes and check society every chance I get

too few and far between is courtesy contagious

and I…

I am fed up, angry/agitated/ aggravated

because I don’t eat enough to fuel the rational thought required to respond to ignorance and bigotry

I am not worthless because of your opinion of me

i am not a real housewife nor will i ever be

i am a sophisticated, intelligent, ambitious female,

something like a lady

only more driven & determined to accomplish my dreams

no matter what the costs may be

i walk the line of self-destruction

some  say i’m uncivilized

cause i don’t love like Lucy

won’t leave shit to beaver

I’m ever empowered and eager

to take care of it on my own

I’m not the damsel in distress

i don’t need to be saved

so leave me the fuck alone

stop yelling at me from a distance

or telling my back how beautiful it is

man up & talk to my face

that is/if you can find it

if you want to speak to me

i’m not addressing all men just these assholes in society

like evangelical republicans insisting on propriety


I have bigger concerns then whether our head of state is a citizen

like the state of the city i reside in

but I digress

I don’t make my ass clap for

these dollars I work harder then the pole you wish I’d straddle

Buckle up its gonna be a bumpy ride

if you think i’m angry now

honey you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The wrath if a woman scorned aint got shit

on a woman torn/shredded to pieces by mixed media signals, stereotypes & cultural expctations.

heir apparent to a living legacy of food paranoia  &, excessive exercise,

just to go down a size

because invisible is the new black.

This is a fury of 29 year gestation

learning to conquer glass ceilings and fear

makes for an easy birth to confidence.

Like breathing

I gladly strut my curvature on city streets,

bouncing my booty to my ipods beat,

proving true that the most awesome women have curves & tattoos!

We write our stories in symbol & song verse

, regurgitating our hurt for the broken hearted girls to learn from.

Letting  them know how amazing it feels to be your own shero,

that your worth cannot be weighed by the width of your waist or your weight.

and if you just wait

i promise it gets better

so drop the measuring tape,

eat that 3rd slice of pizza,

erase the rules & write in your own.

Above all that the hold your head high

and be bold

be you

hold tight to your truth

become the most interesting person you’ve ever met

because the herstory you leave behind is important

and its waiting to be read.





The Cypher Slam Is Back!


October 3rd @ 8:00 pm

Attention poets and poetry lovers! There’s a new poetry slam in the city called The Cypher Slam. Sign up to compete for a cash prize or just come support and vote for the best poet of the night. This poetry slam will feature a live Jazz Trio jamming and flowing with each artist throughout the night.

***This event is being presented courtesy of Company Cypher and ArtLov(H)er.

WOW Cafe Theater, 59-61 East 4th Street(btwn Bowery & 2nd)  

$10 Suggested Donation

RSVP for tickets by emailing companycypher@gmail.com

Doors open at 7:45. Arrive early to sign up to slam. Winner receives a cash prize!


New Newsletter!

company 2
March 19, 2013
Company Cypher News

Company Cypher is up to big things! At the end of 2012 we announced that we would begin pre-production on a documentary about the making of our signature show In The Cypher. Well we’re right on track and expect to have a sizzle reel for In The Cypher-The Documentary released this summer! Keep reading to find out what else we’re working on.


Undoing Racism Workshops
Our co-sponsored Understanding and Undoing Racism Workshop held January 2013 was an amaizng sucess! We had a packed room of artists and arts administrators collaborating and creating alliances to continue undoing racism in our field of the arts. The People’s Institute for Survival And Beyond facilitated the provocative and impactful 2.5 day workshop, and we’re happy to announce our next Undoing Racism Workshop will be coming to Los Angeles in the Fall! To attend this event or find out more information, email admin@companycypher.com
Facebook Happy Hour!
Join Us For Our First Facebook HAPPY HOUR!
Mark your calendars for March 28th at 7pmEST/4pmPST. Grab a barstool, a cocktail, some friends and your online device to join the conversation. We’ll be live messaging on Facebook together to discuss and debate the phrases “skin color” vs. “skin tone”. What do these terms tell you? What do they mean to you? Your contribution will help shape the language used by Company Cypher in our programming and marketing.Just go to ourCompany Cypher Facebook Page. We want your voice to move us forward, so Save the Date 03/28/13 & tell your friends and join the Company Cypher HAPPY HOUR
InTheCypher-2 2
Upcoming Cabarets
There’s lots in store this year! Keep checking our website,companycypher.com, to get the latest information regarding our activities:
  • A Company Cypher Cabaret – Some of NYC’s hottest acts perform about racial/color identity  Thursday, May 30.
  • A Company Cypher Cabaret – Open Mic with a house band and featured poet                                  Thursday, June 27

Slavery on Stage

What is it about the legacy of slavery and racism in America that sends people reeling? Recently I experienced the relation of race and art in two very different ways.  I was fortunate to organize and participate in a workshop called Understanding & Undong Racism/Community Organizing for Artists and Arts Administrators. The workshop was facilitated by the People’s Institute for Survival And Beyond. I attended two other PISAB workshops in the past that were attended mostly by Social Workers and Teachers. Both were great workshops (which is why I wanted to organize one myself for the arts community) but the workshop this past weekend was definitely the best one of them all. From my perspective in this workshop people seemed the least resistant and most open to explore the subject matter. In the end real connections and collaborations were created between organizations and artists.  I was proud to be in the room with people of not only such power and compassion, but also who apparently brought their game faces and got to work. That same weekend my theater company had arranged to give a performance in a private high school in NY. The last day of the workshop, my company was simultaneously giving a dress rehearsal for the faculty in the school’s theater. The result was a great dress rehearsal and a canceled engagement. The faculty appreciated the show from an artistic standpoint, they liked the work, but they expressed concern that their school wasn’t prepared to handle the material. Our show includes a slave auction near the end of the play. They felt showing that historical event in the show would have been too provocative and their school was not equipped with the necessary tools to address any questions or emotions that were stimulated by the performance. I believe them. I would say that most schools don’t have in place any kind of resources to address the history of US slavery or racism or colorism. And that goes from elementary schools to schools of higher education. Again and again opportunities are lost and teachable moments dissolve into a cloud of unexamined negative emotional responses. Yet, there are many organizations in existence that provide those tools in creative and comprehensive ways. Border Crossers for grades k-5 is one and Company Cypher’s Cypering Education branch for middle school students and older is another.  The good news is the light has been shown, revealing an aspect of their curriculum that is absent and they are choosing to do something about it. Many schools recognize the lack of a racial analysis in their curriculum, but continue to avoid dealing with the discussion no matter how helpful it may be to their diverse student body or our country’s growing diversity.  I look forward to working with this school at another time in the near future and in a broader context where we can face our challenges together. 

Without Borders



(This poem will be featured in the performance of Eye D by Christine Toy Johnson on March 13th, 6pm @ Hunter College)487809_469265349805565_1006970948_n


Without Borders

If there was a word made flesh

I’d call upon it now

Some vibration in sound

Tripping over the softness of my tongue

Angling around the hardness of my teeth


To touch

Pads of fingers

Imprinting my presence

Upon your person

Trying to leave my mark

Dark ink on pale paper

Looking for something deeper

And so I grope

For more

Fingers now claw

Tearing you to feel

Don’t worry the scars will heal

Desperate devouring

Turning skin inside out

Flesh feaverishly warm

With the heat of invasion

And in that possession

Holy intimate interaction

You suddenly see right through my eyes

Soft brown lenses inverting pictures of my experience

You see a child somehow devalued by apperance

Born into grown people problems

Lynched by an inherited hang up

Now turn toward the flicker of some made up life

Light up a card board house

In some mountain town

Tall blonde Novella stars

Tease an ideal out of thin air

Look down

And use my sight to take in this new

Skin you never imagined belonged to you

It does now

And I burrow deeper

To where I un-define demarcations of where I end and you begin

I want to get under your skin

Make your blood boil

Froth with the agitation

Of acknowledging another

Now co-habiting your borders

I settle and snuggle next to your heart

Beating my own rhythm into yours

You feel my stories and make them ours

This shared evolutionary journey

Of have and have nots

Winners and losers

Lost and found muses

Dreams and disillusions


Privledged and poor fuses

To become

Just shades

Of the same





Company Cypher was formed at the beginning of 2012, inspired by our signature show In The Cypher , which was co-conceived in the winter of 2006 by Gamal Palmer and Sarita Covington. The show was then performed for the first time under the direction of Patricia McGregor in 2007 at the Yale Cabaret, the student run theater for Yale School of Drama MFA candidates. Two years later, In The Cypher would make its NYC premiere. Since then In The Cypher has performed in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Company Cypher seeks to end racism by creating and sustaining a platform for dialogical exchange between multi-racial, multi-hue and multi-cultural people. Using Theater, Hip-Hop education and dialogue, we are dedicating to diminishing oppressions founded in racism and skin color prejudices. We challenge superficial and socially constructed differences to emphasize the unity the human race.

In The Cypher is a powerhouse show, part poetry slam, part theater that pushes the boundaries between audience and performer, creating a space like none other for interaction and transformation. Four poets, an MC and a waitress keep the audience jamming to poetic riffs about living in one’s own skin, using slam poetry, improvisation and Documentary Theater. In The Cypher puts skin color front and center while empowering everyone to look within. The show features audience judges, laugh out loud comedy, and spirited dissension to enlighten and enliven the discussion of race and skin color


  • Cypher Reading Series – Reading of Things Went Horribly Wrong, a new play that spans time and place, exploring what happens in revolutions, particularly when they go astray. The play brings to light issues of youth incarceration, youth violence and feminine leadership.
  • Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Manhattan Community Arts Fund -Recipients grant to support our work with In The Cypher for the second year in a row.
  • Company Cypher Website – New website highlighting our activities and events. 
  • Cyphering Education Workshop in Philadelphia – 2-day workshop for Walter D. Palmer Leadership Learning Academy in West Philadelphia, which included a performance of ‘In The Cypher’ for student body and faculty.
  •  In The Cypher/NY (Spring)- Our signature show returns to WOW Café Theater.
  • In The Cypher/LA – A Concert Reading of ‘In The Cypher’ with original music! Members of the cast included; YSD grad Bridget Jones ’07, Lesley David Baker of The Office, popular recording artist Cassidy aka Bohem and directed by Shana Cooper YSD ‘08.
  • Cyphering Education Workshop at Yale  – (The birthplace of our conceptual beginnings) Led a workshop in conjunction with Yale’s Drama and Divinity’s Master Students inter-disciplinary course The Quest for Social Justice Through Music, Theater & Religion.
  • Palmer Foundation Fiscal Sponsorship – Company Cypher enjoys non-profit benefits and tax-deductible donation status with support from the Palmer Foundation.
  • Undoing Racism for Artist & Arts Administrators Planning Workshop – Co-sponsored by Company Cypher and Urban Bush Women and facilitated by PISAB.
  • In The Cypher/NY (Fall) & launch of From The Stage To The Streets Initiative– Incorporating a whole new cast and programmed post show talk backs with collaborating local activists to move the conversation of transformation from the stage to the streets.
  • Network Broadening Initiative– where we successfully grew our network of ethnically diverse performers and technicians, as well as our mailing list and outreach, enlarging our audience by 200%.


  • Company Cypher Documentarywe are embarking on a new journey. Stay tuned for ‘In The Cypher; The Documentary’. Audiences will finally witness the profound rehearsal process that produces our intimate and truth telling play.

Up Coming Events:

  • Undoing Racism Workshop For Artist & Arts AdministratorsThis workshop sold out within the first month of advertising will offer artists tools for understanding and undoing racism in our profession and the media.
  • Cyphering Education at the Trevor Day School – Company Cypher will perform and lead a talk-back for high school students at the Upper West Side school.

We encourage all to check out our website companycypher.com for more information.

Something I learned from the workshop was the different points of view on racism. I also realized how easily I judge people when it comes to race, I never realized that before.

– Mari, student of Walter D. Palmer high school