On June 9th a football framed freedom suite /peh-LO-tah/ premiered at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. This production celebrates a deep and personal devotion to the game of soccer. It is also a meditation on life as person of color in the United States. It is not one story but many, and the stories often leap beyond words into other forms of expression – dance, song, spoken-word poetry, and video montages.

The writer of the suite, poet-performer Marc Bamuthi Joseph, found freedom on the soccer field. As a child of Haitian immigrants, he embraced the sport as a means to navigate his own American Dream. To create this powerful work, Marc has teamed up with local youth from similar immigrant backgrounds through DC SCORES, an organization that teaches soccer, literacy, and social issues. /peh-LO-tah/ combines Marc’s explosive Hip Hop style with these young voices to explore their collective joys and struggles, all through the lens of this globally loved sport.

“When I think about freedom, I don’t think about Martin Luther King or Thomas Jefferson – I think about scoring goals.”  – Marc Bamuthi Joseph, writer of /peh-LO-tah/

True story: how soccer changes kids lives

Nereida’s soccer story began as soon as she was able to walk, and she quickly became the first female in her family to play soccer.

For Nereida A., 14, soccer is an activity that keeps her physically and mentally healthy. When life chooses to throw stones at her, she kicks a soccer ball right back at it. It serves as her outlet for letting go of all her stresses and is a time when she can feel free of everything negative. Soccer has taught Nereida “determination, dedication and teamwork” while also making her a stronger individual.

“What I’ve learnt from DC SCORES for these past 5 years is that if you have a goal, stick with it, don’t give up”. – Nereida A.


DC SCORES’ school-based, team-based, whole child programming — delivered through free after-school programs and summer camps facilitated by trained youth development professionals — intentionally integrates soccer, poetry, and service-learning to help low-income 3rd-8th graders throughout the District build physical fitness, find their voice, improve their literacy, increase school engagement, and strengthen ties to their community. DC SCORES goes where kids in need are and creates neighborhood teams that give kids the confidence and skills to succeed on the playing field, in the classroom, and in life.

Quick Links

Peh-lo-tah performance at the Kennedy Center


Nereida’s story on DC SCORES blog