In Black Diamond (2007), J. Nicole Brooks interrogates contemporary connections and discontinuities between the Africans in Liberia and African Americans in the United States. Set in 1999, the play opens in the middle of the second Liberian civil war, which eventually resulted in the overthrow of brutal despot Charles Taylor and his arrest as a war criminal. At issue in this drama is the question of what should be the responsibility of the United States to this war-torn African state racked by genocidal atrocities and human rights violations.
After all, Liberia has a unique bond to the United States, beginning in 1827 when former black slaves from the United States attempted to settle Liberia. At the centre of her drama, Brooks places an African American journalist sent by the BBC to cover the war story. As Americans and the world turn a seemingly deaf ear toward the suffering in Liberia, this journalist faces his own life-altering questions as to his duty to his profession and his obligation as a black man to this intra-racial conflict.
Fast-paced and episodic in structure, Black Diamond’s eclectic form also rubs up against convention, assaulting the audience’s senses as moments of flashback clash against burlesque enactments, docudrama narrativization, and rap music interludes. The play’s structure informs its content. The contrasts and incongruities in style underscore the contradictory cultural politics at play within this catastrophic African struggle. By depicting rebel soldiers that associate their own brutality and swagger with the urban cool of African American hip hop, Brooks’ play showcases the complications and ambiguities of black cultural traffic, the flow and, importantly, the friction of black imagery.
With its structural hybridity and diverse representations of blackness, Black Diamond enacts the post-black.