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Black HS Students Protest: School Performs “The Wiz” With No Blacks in Leading Roles


Anyone who has seen “The Wiz” knows that the film was a black one.  In fact, nearly every single character was black and if there was indeed a white guy, he was hidden behind a costume.  This might be part of the reason that students at  Cicero-North Syracuse were stunned to find that the school’s production of “The Wiz” was going to be done with a mostly all-white cast.

The North Syracuse Central School Board was recently addressed by Letrice Titus, who joined with nine students who are upset that “The Wiz” has been yanked from it’s African American roots.

“It sends the message that there are no talented African American students and that message is a lie,” Titus said.

The local NAACP president, Preston Fagan, has gotten in on the act, speaking at the same meeting.
“Let’s have some honest discussions on this sensitive issue,” Fagan said. “Whether we agree or disagree, communication is key.”

“Are there no talented African American students at C-NS?” Letrice Titus asked, according to “Was there any outreach to the African American students in the school? Why didn’t the school just do The Wizard of Oz?”

Titus says that she first went to the school’s music director, Caryn Patterson, to discuss the issue.  She said that the school ignored her concerns.   Her daughter, Kierrah, tried out for the lead role and was chosen to be a member of the ensemble.

“I’m not just a parent upset that my daughter didn’t get a role,” Letrice Titus said. “I think it’s wrong.”

“The Wiz” was a Broadway musical in the 1970s and made into a film in 1978.

According to IMDB, the film is a black version “of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ that tries to capture the essence of the African American experience.”

Melissa Julian, executive principal for Cicero North Syracuse, said that only seven black students tried out for the film and only one tried out for the leading role.   The school has only 93 African American students out of 2,200.

“She makes it a steady point to encourage diversity for her performances,” Bowles said of Patterson. “She wants as much diversity in all of her productions as possible.”



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