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Local Montreal play carries on despite upset over controversial puppet

By Elizabeth Zogalis  Global News, February 26, 2023 7:22 pm
Watch the video here:
At first glance, the play L’incroyable Secret de Barbe Noire, which translates to Black Beard’s Incredible Journey, seems like any other children’s play.
But a puppet featured in the play, which is a caricature of the artist, has caused a lot of controversy among Black community members.
The City of Pointe Claire eventually removed the play from its Black History Month programming, but after consultations, the show went on as scheduled. Speaking in French, Frank Sylvestre, the artist, said he’s relieved that the show could go on.
“Finally I can be with the children and they can enjoy my show,” he said. “Adults can see what it’s all about.”
The play was cancelled in Beaconsfield, which Silvestre, an immigrant originally from the French island Martinique, called disappointing.
“I find it disappointing that they backtracked so quickly and they didn’t consider the importance of the culture and freedom of expression,” he added.
His show was presented at Stewart Hall on Sunday and was attended by mostly children and their parents who know the artist’s work, while others wanted to see what the controversy was about.
“If it’s art, the people have the right to express themselves the way they feel like. How can we sensor artistic expression?” Said one woman, while another added it’s time to reflect on stereotypes.
The play, which runs about 45 minutes, is meant to make children laugh, but not everyone is on the same page.
“This play has been put on for years and these young children are being exposed to images that appear like Black face,” said Joel Debellefeuille, the executive director of the Red Coalition, an organization devoted to fighting racial profiling.
He asks how it would be different if the artist was white.
“There’s no reason why there should be a difference between why it’s wrong with Mr. Sylvestre doing it as a Black man, and that’s the key here,” he added.
The play has already been presented across Montreal over 50 times. Sylvestre hopes curiosity gets the better of people and encourages everyone to check out his work.



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