Jails, Hospitals, Hip-Hop

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The one-person show, Jails, Hospitals, and
Hip-Hop (JH3) by Danny Hoch was presented
at spaces across the UIUC campus.
Each performance was followed by a discussion
with director, Alex Berg-Jacobson,
Assistant Director, Keri Carpenter, and
actor, Chris Silcox. One night featured
members from the local hip-hop community.
Each discussion had a specific focus
including Hip-Hop’s viability as an art
form, social injustice on the campus and
the U.S., and social change.
The director’s commitment to social
justice clearly informed the production.
Berg-Jacobson’s note in the program states,
“The only things that I was sure of [when
proposing the show were] the potential
that this brilliant play has to effect social
change here on campus, and the power of
last year’s forum, Racism, Power, and Privilege.
Encouraging and facilitating discussion
after performances continued one of
the main goals of both the forum and Hip-
Hop—open critical engagement.
This critical engagement is also exercised
by the characters in the piece. One
instance is a light-skinned man who is in
jail for selling Bart and O.J. Simpson tshirts
without a merchant’s license. He
reflects on the false advertising of the
“American Dream,” which is sold with
images of young girls running lemonade
stands on their lawns—no license
required, of course. The prevention of his
attempt to claim his piece of the “American
Dream,” in combination with his
arresting officer’s violent need to determine
his racialized identity, inspires a
more complex view of the legal system. As
he states, “I’m not in prison because I’m a
criminal. I’m in prison because I’m poor.”
The piece portrays the prison system as
one which punishes the disadvantaged
and dehumanizes its participants. From
the white inmate encouraging a fellow
inmate of color to plead guilty because of
“how the system works,” to the prison
guard at a mandated therapy appointment
after almost beating an inmate of color to
death, clear distinctions between right and
wrong are not allowed. When the behaviors
created by society are deemed wrong
and then punished, who will defend the

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