BATON ROUGE, LA -It was just a normal day for Jeremiah Turner as he rode his bike down Highland Road last fall, when suddenly someone in a truck yelled “FUCKING NIG” at him as they passed.
Jeremiah recalls his shock and describes the incident “as something that still rings to him today.”
For Jeremiah, a 19-year-old theatre major at Louisiana State University, that event was the source of the motivation and strength that empowered his monologue performance at Tuesday’s Moment or Movement. Turner performed at the “Love & Justice: A Reflection on Identity, Empowerment, and Justice for All through Music and the Spoken Word” event, which included other performances by faculty and students of the College of Music & Dramatic Arts and the LSU A Cappella Choir.
Jeremiah was asked to present the last Facebook post Montrell Jackson shared before he was murdered. Montrell Jackson was one of the three fallen officers during the recent Baton Rouge police shootings, and he had authored a poignant Facebook post concerning the death of Alton Sterling, the unrest that gripped the city and the emotion and conflict he experienced. Turner performed the piece with such heart and emotion, it left the audience in awe as they contemplated the past tragedies.
The assignment of such a powerful piece imposed a great weight on Turner’s shoulders. He wanted to be sure to do the words of Montrell Jackson justice. “I was nervous to do the piece,” said Turner, “just knowing how much it meant to so many people.” Despite his nerves, Turner described the honor and privilege he felt to share Jackson’s last post with the public. “I was excited to bring his words from the grave, and to be able to continue the dialogue,” said Turner.
While Turner’s personal racial discrimination encounter motivated his performance, the day of the Jackson’s death was significant for him as well.
Turner recalls driving down Airline Highway that Sunday morning on the way to church with his family, when suddenly a large number of cops sped past them. An officer brought Turner’s family to a complete stop and directed them to make a U-turn. When Turner’s mother asked the policeman what the chaos was, he informed the family of the shooting. “Those words, the way he said it, such anger and sadness at the same time, I still remember it,” said Turner, visibly unnerved by the coincidence of having been so near.
Turner, a 2015 graduate of McKinley High School, accredits his high school theatre teacher for his love of drama and theatre. “My teacher and that class left such a lasting effect on me,” said Turner. Turner loves the potential of how acting can help others open their hearts and minds, and he believes theatre taught him to “look past the outer appearance of a person.” With that passion, Turner hopes to one day be a teacher and to help his students, just as his teacher helped him.