Published Jun 11, 2018My Name is Myeisha answers a question: what would happen if the story of a black teenager being gunned down by police was told from the perspective of the teenager herself, and not that of the often-biased media?
Using a blend of narrative, spoken word, performance art, hip-hop and surreal dream sequences that bring to mind the ending of Bob Fosse's other musical about death, All That Jazz, My Name Is Myeisha takes an unorthodox approach to examining the last hours of the life of Myeisha.
On December 28, 1998, 19-year-old Tyisha Miller's tire went flat late at night while she and a friend were driving through Riverside, CA. Miller's friend went to get help, leaving Tyisha alone in the car — with her gun on her lap for protection. When help finally arrived, they found Miller shaking and foaming at the mouth in an apparent seizure, and called 911 for assistance. One of the officers on scene smashed the driver's side window, and Miller awoke, grabbing her pistol in surprise. Police then proceeded to fire 23 bullets at Tyisha, 12 of which hit and killed her.
Based on Rickerby Hinds' stage play, Dreamscape, Gus Krieger's film explores the final moments of "Myeisha," a fictionalized version of Miller, as she becomes trapped inside her subconscious. In these dream sequences, we explore her relationships to friends and family, her beliefs, desires and fears. The full realization of how and when she was murdered are only made apparent through a heartbreaking sequence toward the end, after we've spent so much time was this likeable and spirited young woman.
As Myeisha, actress Rhaechyl Walker won an Acting Award at the film's festival premiere (the film also won the Audience Award in the Beyond Feature category) for the passionate, forceful spirit she brought to the character. This is a story that deserves to be told — of a promising life cut short by tragedy, a story about the kind of person the media will be quick to say was "asking for it."
While Myeisha is, predominantly, the only character (aside from various backup dancers or shadowy performers) in most scenes, John Merchant portrays a variety of male characters in the dream sequences. Merchant raps, beatboxes and recites spoken word poetry while Myeisha moves through a Lynchian purgatory, unable to wake up from the strange new reality she's been thrown in beyond her will.
While some elements of Myeisha's dreamscape and the metaphors it represents can seem heavy-handed at times (the elements Krieger employs in these dreamscapes will be familiar to many viewers fond of surrealist media), the film is still a moving and powerful way to give a voice to the voiceless the many, many dead black North American bodies killed by law enforcement. By centering this narrative on Myeisha herself — not a symbol to be co-opted by a bigoted agenda — the film truly drives home Myeisha's oft-repeated phrase: "you know me."
We do. We know way too many people who ended up exactly like her. But it's important to remember that they were all people, not just names or numbers.