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Trump's rhetoric inspires Jamaican playwright

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Thursday, October 19, 2017

It's not a good time to be an immigrant in the United States these days. President Donald Trump's rhetoric has made millions of even documented immigrants uncomfortable.

Among them is Jamaican Karl O'Brian Williams, a playwright who has lived in New York City for the past nine years. He lets his feelings known in Welcome To America, his latest production, which opens October 28 at Cramton Auditorium, Howard University.

Williams said it is the first time since migrating that he has felt so much pressure on immigrants. Trump's proposed wall along the Mexican border to stem the flow of illegal immigrants coming into the US, and a travel ban on people from countries with Muslim populations and beliefs, inspired him to write Welcome To America.

Promise of a border wall first came up during Trump's presidential campaign last year. His travel ban, which has been rejected by some states, materialised shortly after he took office in January.

Like many of Trump's detractors, Williams believes the president is short on compassion, and endangers a long-standing American tradition.

His issues with Trump include, “The lack of contextual intelligence, the lack of empathy, the lack of decency and the severe lacking in general. The entire country was built on the backs of the enslaved and on exploiting the immigrants' needs and our desire to be part of the Union. He is fully aware of this,” said Williams.

The 42-year-old Williams is from Kingston, and has been involved in theatre for 21 years. His previous projects include Not About Eve and Voices From The Black That I Am.

The latter was also influenced by the immigrant experience.

Produced by Williams' Braata Productions, Welcome To America has a 10-member consisting mainly of Jamaicans. It debuts at Howard University, a pillar of black empowerment in the United States.

Williams hopes to show his play to a diverse audience.

“If I had the funds it would be shown everywhere,” he said.