MIAMI – A full house packed the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Peackock Room on Saturday, February 23rd, to witness a powerful staged reading of the play I Know What I Am and I Am Not What You Call Me. The reading was presented by the Jonathan Spikes Foundation and hosted by Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall of the Miami-Dade County School Board. Spikes and the cast dressed in black received a standing ovation after the performance.
The autobiographical play directed by Patrice DeGraff Arenas, written by Jonathan Spikes and Shanteria Griglen and based on the book, I Know What I Am and I Am Not What You Call Me, addresses the difficult subject of childhood sexual abuse.
Although statistics show that as many as one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused at some point in their childhood, many find the topic difficult to discuss in an open forum.
“I remember being ashamed and afraid of being sexually abused,” Spikes said. “It was difficult for me to speak out about it. But what I discovered was the more I spoke, the more it allowed me to use my experience as a vessel to let others know, yes, you too, can overcome it.”
The play’s main character, “Damon McBlessed,” faces multiple forms of abuse at the hands of both women and men, Spikes said. “The abuse confuses him about his sexuality and his identity, but more than that it warps his understanding of what real love is all about. We see so many children desperate for love and affection who after being manipulated believe that sex is the sole gateway to achieving common human needs.”
Spikes says it is his and the cast’s hope that a play dealing with the plight of young boys coming to terms with who they are in this new-age society will serve as a source of help and inspiration for anyone who needs it. “The theatre provides the perfect backdrop to address this emotional topic in an open, non-judgmental environment.”
The staged reading of the play was filled with lighter moments in which the audience laughed, clapped and cheered through each dramatic twist and turn.
Spikes, who has a huge following on social media, had dozens of comments flooding facebook and twitter after the performance, including this one from Angela Lee Raines:
“Your story will inspire so many that have given up on themselves. All I can say is keep pressing towards the mark. This journey you’re on is so much bigger than you! God will see you through all of the uncertain times and you will come out victorious!”
Spikes, who heads the Jonathan Spikes Foundation, a nonprofit youth advocacy organization, said it was a financial challenge producing the staged reading.The actors and much of the crew volunteered their efforts for which he said he’s extremely grateful.
“After the play everyone was coming up to me saying how great and wonderful it was. It really was great and wonderful but, fear and doubt tried to creep in. It cost a whole lot of money to put on that production and trust me, I was feeling the pressure. Again, I emptied my bank account and some invoices still need to be paid. But, I understand this is part of the process and journey.”
Spikes acknowledged that several South Florida psychologists and mental health therapists were in the audience. “Many of them emailed me and some spoke during the Q & A portion after the performance,” he said. “The consensus was a lot of people can benefit from seeing this play.”
The Adrienne Arsht Center has signed on to produce I Know What I Am and I Am Not What You Call Me in 2014.
*Pictured above is Jonathan Spikes greeting attendees.