Griot Theater Company showcases LH3 at MLK Academy in Marin City


Photo by Elisa Cobb

By Elisa Cobb

On Feb. 28, Griot Theater Company performed attributing acts to Langston Hughes and Lorraine Hansberry at Martin Luther King (MLK) Academy in Marin City. The show started at 6:00 p.m., followed by food and music at 7:30 p.m. The performance celebrated Hansberry and Hughes’ legacy, as well as representation for Black History Month.

Griot Theater Company is a non-profit organization and group of people with a wide variety of occupations that come together to expand Black and Brown talent and culture as a whole. Griot has expanding ties to Tamalpais High School’s drama department, as well as varying sponsors (Target, Good Stuff, and Sausalito and Marin City School District). 

The show featured actors that are from the Marin City community; including teachers, students, and church faculty. The performance showcased poems from both Hughes and Hansberry that were read by students and teachers. The performance also included continuous anthems, poems, and songs sung by the Griot theater ensemble and other community members. Informational videos covering events in history such as The Great Migration filled the performance with culture and history. 

LeShawn Holcomb is an English teacher at Bayside Elementary and the founder of Griot. Holcomb founded and built Griot amidst the segregation of Bayside Elementary and Willow Creek Academy in Marin City.

 “I just wanted to create a theater company for my students at the time that mixed with these different races of people so they can know who they are and their identity,” Holcomb said. 

The company’s name, Griot, originated from the Griot West African tribe. The Griots are most commonly known for their storytelling, “As well as being storytellers, they are poets, historians, genealogists, and musicians” according to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Griots would use different forms of art from music to dance to tell stories all across West Africa.

Griot brings storytelling to another level by integrating a culture that brings students and community members together to tell stories with a purpose and end goal of a positive and transparent environment. While Griot can be seen as a clear theater program it is however centered around storytelling, “It’s not really an acting company, it’s more of a storytelling company,” Holcomb said. 

Every February, Griot performs a Black History Month production, usually zooming in on different aspects or perspectives of Black history, “We try to shift the energy” Holcomb said. This February, the production was LH3. 

By involving community members of Marin City, many different people step up to be a part of the company. Griot’s Social Media Manager Ayanna (Yaya) Morgan not only runs the social media platforms but also contributes her own acting abilities. In LH3, Morgan was reached out to by Holcomb to contribute as an actress. “It was cool to see different people and organizations help out with the kids,” Morgan said.

While Griot is originated and based out of Marin City, the company has grown a relationship with Tam High’s CTE Drama program. 

The connection between Tam High Drama CTE and Griot is not new. Co-Director of CTE, Ben Cleaveland has produced three productions with Griot, the most recent being “Grover’s Corner”. Griot builds its students to be ready to enter the intense and commitment heavy program that is CTE as well as providing opportunities to see the future high school experience. 

“One of our bridges between middle school and highschool is that we get to bring some middle school students to come act in our show here at the high school,” Holcomb said. The support from the programs goes beyond just working together and creating projects, people like Cleaveland go to support Griot’s vision. “The main thing I loved was the message” Cleaveland said regarding LH3.

Griot will continue to work and produce with Tam and create their productions. The next show will be in April.