A native Washingtonian, Christopher Prince is a multi-talented writer, singer, actor, and activist. His artistic life began as a teenager when he participated in Workshops for Careers in the Arts, which ultimately became the pilot program for Washington D.C.’s Duke Ellington High School for the Performing Arts.
His poetry, which addresses political/self-actualization and identity, has appeared in several publications, including the Baltimore Sun, Haki Madhubuti’s Black Books, Bulletin, and Callalou-A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters. Chris has performed his poetry at Artomatic and the Washington Fringe Festival.
Chris has sung at numerous jazz venues, festivals, and concert halls. Among these are the legendary DC Space, Blues Alley, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Adams Morgan Day, and the Fort Dupont Amphitheater. As a member of the vocal group, “The Four of Us,” Chris has performed at the San Remo Jazz Festival in Italy and the Festival de Castelle in the South of France. He performed with instrumentalist and composer Wayson R. Jones as the duo, Nightskin, creating original, lyrically rich neo-soul before the genre took hold in the mainstream. Chris’s music is a moving jazz/funk/neo-soul hybrid. Currently, in addition to performing with a trio of superb jazz musicians, he is also a member of the acapella group, Reverb.
As an actor, Chris shows a versatility that stretches from Shakespeare to musical theater. He was active in the Black gay and lesbian arts scene during the 80s and 90s and has collaborated with local artists Michelle Parkerson and Essex Hemphill. Chris is one of the voices of the now iconic “Brother to Brother” choral sequence in Marlon Riggs’s award-winning documentary, Tongues Untied.
Recently, Chris has served as the Project Director for the documentary Fierceness Served! The ENIkAlley Coffeehouse. He has also appeared in African-American Collective Theater productions. His one-person play Walking Warrior was part of the 2017 DC Queer Theater Festival. Chris has also served the DC Black gay community as an artist activist. He has twice been co-chair of the entertainment committee for the DC Black Pride Festival and directed multiple productions of DC Coalition for Black Lesbians, Gay Men and Bi-Sexual’s Renaissance-A Cultural Showcase of Artists.
Sometimes a better world has to first be perceived. We must imagine the possibilities. One can effect change incrementally with small, personal actions. I hope to be a change agent by stimulating people’s imagination. I write poems and lyrics that hopefully speak to “our better angels”. There are so many elements that seem to work against us. There are equally as many ways to move a person’s consciousness from negative to positive, hopeless to hopeful. Inspiration, empathy, and acknowledgment are the tools I use in my art to connect with people.
By being open about my struggle for authenticity, I hope to show the possibilities of what can be gained by going through the process. My work challenges and invites a new perspective.
By rejecting stereotypes, ideology or demographic formulas, I struggle not to become the commodified person presented for media consumption. Through humor, social commentary, love poems, and narratives I try to explore the misconceptions that attempt to leave us vulnerable to manipulation.
With piano accompaniment I will perform new arrangements of protest music and songs of social consciousness from various time periods. These will be folk tunes, rock music, R&B, and spirituals. I would pull from the catalogues of Cat Stevens, Gil Scott Heron, Tracy Chapman, the O’Jays, the Beatles, Bob Marley, Oscar Brown Jr., and possibly songs by more contemporary singers. This will be a non-linear mixture of music and poetry. In addition to the music, I will perform poetry based on the songs, inject narratives that reflect on the history of struggle and cooperation found in this music. This narrative will also include definitions of concepts that have been misappropriated, and quotes from historical figures. The work will address activism by exploring the relationship between what we believe and what we do.
During the civil rights movement music was a source of inspiration and motivation. Today, people are engaged in similar actions as they organize to protect reproductive, voting, and civil rights. Hopefully, this performance will reassure the present generation that the path leading to change is well trod and fortified by the efforts of those who came before them. The challenge will be creating a message that is entertaining and not didactic.
This could evolve into a performance with text projections and other musicians.
My idea to engage the community would entail partnering with one or more organization, such as Empower DC, Center for Black Equity, Urban League, NAACP, or League of Woman Voters, and host a panel discussion on art and activism at the MLK Library. During this event, the original versions of the music I will perform can be played. Panelists and audience can discuss what the music means to them. The discussion will also focus on the role of music as a tool for change. This event would help the audience contextualize the performance’s narrative and the music. This community connection would happen early in the creative process to help inform the work. Audience members would then be invited to the performance and/or open rehearsal. Participating organizations could also be invited to set up tables in the Atlas Lobby to promote their initiatives on the day of the performance.