In the spring of 2000, a sold-out crowd of volunteers and union organizers, parents and students, hourly wage earners and salaried policy wonks, mohawks and buzz cuts, Latino and black, white and Asian, Christian and Jew packed a small auditorium in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood for the first official show of Washington, D.C.-based arts organization Sol & Soul. The show, titled ¡Ya!, began with the backstage sounds of shaking spray paint cans and drumming. Suddenly, a half dozen breakdancers took center stage as graffiti artists decorated the sets and musicians drummed in the background.
Within the first two minutes the audience members were on their feet, responding to the unexpected collaboration of visual art, sound, and movement. Or to seeing "street art" on the stage. Or to the adrenaline rush from the first appearance of Spoken Resistance, the youth and young adult performance group of Sol & Soul.
Sol & Soul has kept its fans and audience members on their toes—both through the challenge of its social justice mission and the fact that most shows are standing room only—for the past three years. The programs sponsored by Sol & Soul (usually pronounced and sometimes written with the "and" in Spanish: Sol y Soul) include Spoken Resistance; the solo work of the organization's artistic director, Quique Aviles; artistic residencies and performances by visiting artists; free creativity and art workshops for the community; and El Barrio Street Theater, Washington, D.C.'s only street theater project.