What are the themes of your play?
The play deals with extractions from Black women, from cells, to labour, to knowledge… It is about medicine and memory and is inspired by Henrietta Lacks whose cells were taken without her consent, are still multiplying after her death and have led to the greatest biological findings in history.
Why did you write it and why now?
I wrote Family Tree because I heard about Henrietta Lacks and thought, wow, this woman’s cells are eternal, her body has led to healing for millions of people, yet most people have never heard her name. Why? She was a Black woman. I wrote it to honour the hundreds of Black women, including Anarcha, Betsey and Lucy, who endured medical experiments without their consent, whose voices have not been heard yet we owe gynaecological medicine to them. I wrote it because so many Black people have given their lives in health and care services in Britain during the Covid crisis and their sacrifices must be remembered. I wrote it because we need, I need, to hear these stories, now and before now. I wrote it because Oshun has been forgotten and I want to write her back into my life. I wrote it to remember a family friend who died from Covid before her time. And I wrote Family Tree because a Director I respect enormously seemed to overstand where I was coming from, he gave me permission, he gave me a commission and he asked me to write a play where people leave the theatre looking up at the sky and not down at the ground.
Which playwrights are you influenced by and in what way?
So many playwrights have influenced me… but I would not have written a play without reading Ntozake Shange.
What do you want to achieve as a playwright?
I have one focus: to write to the end of white supremacist anti-Black racism. That’s it.