LEWISTON — These are the first lines Mohamed Roone will utter after taking the stage at Bates College on Monday:

“Trayvon got shot! Michael Brown got shot! And I’m scared. Something’s wrong here!”

Roone, 17, co-wrote and will act in the play, “Something’s Wrong Here,” to be performed Monday at Bates College by a combined cast of members of Maine Inside Out and the Martin Luther King Jr. Fellows (The King Fellows.) The performance, an outgrowth of a collaboration between the two youth groups, will have its debut here before touring the state.

The play addresses the issue of racism, Roone said.

“We wanted people to address this issue,” he said. “We wanted to people to see what was going on.”

Each of the play’s authors — who double as its performers — brought their personal experiences with racism to the play, Roone said.

Roone said he hopes to not only raise awareness of the divisive issue in the community, but also put an end to it.

The nonprofit group, Maine Inside Out, creates original theater productions inside Maine’s correctional facilities then performs those staged pieces inside and outside of those facilities, Co-Director Chiara Liberatore explained Tuesday night at an IHOP in Auburn, where some of the group’s participants were meeting to discuss the upcoming play and other business while munching on pancakes and burgers.

Roone was 14 when he entered the Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland.

“I made some bad decisions in my life when I was very young,” he said. “I just had very bad role models at that point in my life.”

At age 15, he joined Maine Inside Out.

At first, he was drawn to the program by the extra food that was available to its participants and to be among his friends at Long Creek.

His motivation soon changed, though.

“I wanted to get out there,” he said. “I wanted my voice to be heard.”

During his incarceration, he decided he would make the best of his time on the inside.

“While I’m here, I might as well get something out of my stay,” he told himself.

The plays Maine Inside Out performs are collaborations among those who are incarcerated as well as those who have been released. The process of crafting a work of performance art requires cooperation, a good skill to possess on the inside as well as on the outside, Roone said.

“You get along with somebody when you respect their opinions, when you can respect their perspective, when you can respect where they’re coming from,” he said. “That’s what I learned.”

Roone is no longer at Long Creek — he was released earlier this month — but he’s continued his involvement with the group.

And, as an “outsider” he’s venturing into a new collaborative, one based in his community. He, along with a few friends who gathered Tuesday at IHOP, will be working on community projects, including a locally based play, inspired by local issues, to be performed in the Twin Cities.

Roone said he has experienced racism often in his community as well as during his incarceration.

One experience he included in “Something’s Wrong Here” took place at Long Creek while he was waiting in line there.

“I sort of decided to cut ahead of two white kids because they weren’t moving. When we cut, he said the N-word. He called me a N—–. I’m like, ‘Why are you saying that?'”

Roone said he became angry, but kept his ire in check. He decided to tell a staff member at Long Creek, who told him, “As long as it didn’t physically hurt you, it’s fine. It’s nothing.”

Also performing on Monday, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, is the aptly named Martin Luther King Jr. Fellows Program, who will bring poetry and statistics to the script of “Something’s Wrong Here.”

Kamal Haji-Ali, another writer and performer of Monday’s play, was at Long Creek for five months. He, like Roone, was released earlier this month.

Also like Roone, Haji-Ali will be continuing his participation with Maine Inside Out by working on community projects and developing theatrical productions about the place where he lives.

Haji-Ali, 18, came to this country from Kenya in 2003. He’s lived in Maine for 13 years.

He said he’s experienced racism in the form of preferential treatment depending on the color of a person’s skin.

“We just want to get the big picture out there . . . that this stuff is going on,” he said. “After you see it, you’re going to get the point.”


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