WHO WE ARE
The Black and Blue Story Project is a learning community of Louisiana artists, educators and activists who engage the public in imagining healthy and equitable systems of public safety. We are defined by a deeply held belief in the power of stories to both unlock and give shape to this process at all levels. Our programs include community meetings, a blog and the commissioning of original artworks in all media.
We are an expansion and transformation of The Yvonne Bechet Theatre Project, created in 2014 to tell the story of Yvonne Bechet, one of New Orleans' first Black female police officers. An original play inspired by her norm-shattering life and career, BLACK AND BLUE, had its premiere at Dillard University in 2018.
In October 2020, the play was revived in an online reading produced by HowlRound Theatre Commons, alongside a panel entitled Black and Blue 2020: Art / Activism / Transformation. Inspired by the urgent necessity for change in American policing, we have created The Black and Blue Story Project to build creatively upon our foundations in New Orleans and expand into a national learning community.
MEET THE FOUNDING MEMBERS
Susan Hutson, Sherriff Elect for Orleans Parish
Susan Hutson became the first African American woman elected Sheriff in the State of Louisiana in December 2021, following successful stints in the offices of New Orleans Independent Police Monitor (2010-21), Los Angeles Police Commission’s Office of the Inspector General and Office of the Police Monitor in Austin, Texas. Prior to working in police oversight, Ms. Hutson was a general practitioner, defense counsel, prosecutor, and assistant city attorney handling labor matters.
Mathew Schwarzman, Educator and Author
Mathew (Mat) Schwarzman is an adult educator, theater artist and non-profit administrator with more than 30 years' experience. He is co-author with cartoonist Keith Knight of the text book Beginner's Guide to Community-Based Arts, which is used in universities, K-12 schools and community organizations across the United States and beyond. Schwarzman holds a B.A. in Theatre Arts from Rutgers University and a Ph.Din Transformative Learning from the California Institute for Integral Studies, and he lives in New Orleans, LA
Ron Bechet, Educator and Artist
Ron Bechet is an art maker and the Victor H. Labat Professor of Art at Xavier University, where he has taught for more than twenty years. Known for intimate large-scale drawings and paintings, he earned an MFA at Yale University. His art is grounded in the cultural practices of the African diaspora and African American New Orleans. He is the son of Yvonne Olivier Bechet.
Lisa D'Amour, Playwright and Artist
Lisa D’Amour is a playwright and interdisciplinary artist and one half of the OBIE-Award winning performance duo PearlDamour. PearlDamour is known for creating interdisciplinary, often site-specific works which range from the intimate to large scale. Recent work includes How to Build a Forest, an 8-hour performance installation created with visual artist Shawn Hall (The Kitchen, New York, 2011, with subsequent touring), MILTON, a performance created from visits and interviews in 5 U.S. cities named Milton, and Ocean Filibuster, a commission from A.R.T. Theater to premiere in 2021-22. Lisa's plays have produced by theaters across the country, including Manhattan Theater Club’s Samuel J. Friedman Theater on Broadway, Playwrights’ Horizons and Clubbed Thumb (all in NYC), Steppenwolf Theater (Chicago), Children’s Theater Company (Minneapolis), Woolly Mammoth Theater (Washington D.C.), Southern Rep Theater and ArtSpot Productions (both in New Orleans). Lisa’s play Detroit was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Drama and the 2011 Susan Smith Blackburn prize. She is a current board member of the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival, and splits her time between her home in Broadmoor and New York City.
Ariadne Blayde, Playwright and Author
Ariadne Blayde is a playwright and fiction writer. Her play “The Other Room” won the VSA Playwright Discovery Award and has been produced 300+ times around the world. Her other work has been recognized by Lark Playwright’s Week, The Tennessee Williams Festival and more. An excerpt from her debut novel, ASH TUESDAY, was shortlisted for the 2020 Tennessee Williams Saints and Sinners Short Fiction Prize, and an excerpt from her current novel-in-progress won the 2020 Quantum Shorts Competition’s People’s Choice Award. She was commissioned to write Black and Blue, a play inspired by the life of Yvonne Bechet and commissioned by the Yvonne Bechet Theatre Project. She writes speculative fiction, historical fiction, and work focusing on social justice.
Yvonne Olivier Bechet, NOPD Lieutenant and Activist
Yvonne Olivier Bechet was one of the first and most transformative African American female police officers in New Orleans' 300-year history. From 1968 to 1990, she continuously broke new ground as an educator, mediator, organizer, talent scout, mentor, labor rights activist, parent, religious leader and undercover drug enforcement agent, all while being a cop. She raised four children: Ronald, Donna, Terrance and David. She co-founded the Black and Blue Story Project at age 80. She passed away amongst children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in 2020.