WEST SIDE, Manhattan (PIX11) — A new opera about racial injustice is having its world premiere at a City College on the west side, but now a petition to stop that performance is gaining momentum. 

“Emmett Till” tells the story of the 14-year-old boy who was tortured and lynched by two white men in Mississippi in 1955 for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The opera is premiering in a concert performance at the Gerald Lynch Theater at John Jay College Wednesday night.

A change.org petition with more than 11,000 signatures is calling for its cancellation. The petition was started by John Jay student Mya Bishop.

“I started this petition because Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and all the other Black children who have been killed by anti-Black racists are human beings,” Bishop, a second year student in public policy at John Jay, told PIX11 News. “They deserve for their stories to center them and should not be used to explore white alliedness, especially through a fictional lens.”

“Emmett Till” is based on Clare Coss’s award winning play “Emmett, Down In My Heart.” For the opera, Coss, who is white, wrote the libretto and Mary D. Watkins, who is Black, composed the music.

“It isn’t a white-centered character,” Coss told PIX11 on Zoom. “Mamie Till is the main character.  I do have a white character who, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, represents the silent people who care, and that’s the greatest tragedy.”

The “Emmett Till” score calls for eight soloists, eight Black chorus members and eight white chorus members.

Coss, who is 86, and Watkins, who is 82, both remember the death of Emmett Till and how it changed their lives.

“Nobody has seen this opera and people are just assuming and no one has any information,” Watkins, the composer, told PIX11 News through a Zoom interview. “They don’t know what Clare was thinking and who she was. We have worked on this a long time and they’re wrong. I don’t know what else to say about it. they’re wrong.”

Wednesday night’s performance is sold out.  There are still a few tickets available for Thursday.