Tag Archives: trinity repertory company

2019 WJSS Year-In-Review

31 Dec

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is M4RJ2017-scaled.jpg
March 4 Racial Justice, organized by local activist, Ria, India Point Park, Providence RI October 2017
It all still matters!
Keep on working white girls!

I wrote here a lot less than I have in previous years. It’s not that I am not thinking about race, cross-racial connections, and breaking down the systems of racism. It is definitely not that. I still think about all of it every day, pretty much 24/7.

I’d say part of the reason why I haven’t posted as much is because I sense I need to shift my focus away from shouting out racism in print because we know it exists, and we see it every day, even though there are certainly a number of, mostly white people, who will gaslight you all day and say, “it’s not so bad, ” or “every one has a chance to succeed if they just work hard, like I did,” or “well, you must have done something to provoke,” and here is where you fill in the blank: “the store clerk to follow you,” “the neighbor to call the police on you for being a Black real estate agent showing another Black person a home in a “white” neighborhood,” or, “the police officer to shoot and kill you for being in your own home playing video games with your nephew.”

I know I need to concentrate more on whiteness, what whiteness and white supremacy has done, and continues to do–how it shows up in our every day lives, and how I, as a white woman, and how all of us who are white, play a part in upholding white supremacist institutions and policies and ways of living, that make sure that racism and racist policies continue to exist, therefore, ensuring that inequities continue between Black people and white people in this country.

(Note: As most of you know, my focus on the blog is about the relationship between Black people and white people in America. I know there are many more areas where inequities take place, many more intersections of race, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, etc., that impact all of this, but my focus is on us, here in the United States)

I have wondered if the writing is still of any value, and how to make it more so, and that, too, has kept me from writing. I also have strived to be doing instead of writing. To speak up when I see and hear either, blatant racist comments, or actions, and speak up when I see and hear things said by white people, that don’t seem to be conscious of their implied racist undertones. I like to call it coded language, that again, may be unconscious to the person speaking it, but to my ears and eyes, implies the exclusion, obliviousness, or an implied inferiority in reference to race and Black culture.

Finally, I have been working behind the scenes on a couple of writing projects, both related to race, which one of these days I will share here. I mention them to hold myself accountable, to keep on working on them. I used to write other things–poems on Facebook made from my friends’ status updates, memoir, and creative non-fiction, but it seems, I can’t not write about race, and so it goes. Here is what I wrote in 2019:

I took a look at the film, based on the James Baldwin novel, If Beale Street Could Talk, which prompted me to think about time, and what I saw as The Problem With White People Time.

In February I got My First Letter To The Editor Published in The Providence Journal. The letter was because of that coded language which I could not believe the critic used to describe the Trinity Repertory Company’s production of the play, black odyssey. The letter prompted a Barrington, Rhode Island man to write an editorial reply to the newspaper and tell me how I was part of what is wrong with America today, and my questioning the validity of a white critic’s perspective on a play representing African diasporic culture, was divisive.

In March, I knew I couldn’t Watch The Michael Jackson Documentary. At Least Not Yet.  A fan from the time I was five years old, I couldn’t bear to watch the one-sided documentary featuring two of the young boys, now men, who had accused Michael of child molestation decades ago. Not here to defend himself, and not wanting to watch the take down of MJ, I still have not watched the documentary. Shorthly after the film aired, I wrote and submitted a short story to a local bi-monthly reading series of writers’ personal essays. The theme that month was Biggest Fan.

I thought my piece on MJ was cool, and looked forward to sharing it at the reading. I also feared that because of the documentary, that anything to do with Michael Jackson would be cancelled, the term we use these days when a celebrity makes a misstep, big or small, and the masses decide they are done with that person, and push them off their pedestal. The pushing usually begins in the form of tweets and social media articles. I got an email that my essay on MJ was not chosen to be read that month. It could have been they had too many other worthy stories. But I couldn’t help but think the organizers of the reading most definitely cancelled Michael.

In April, I was one of the people who finally took the time, a little too late, to find out more about the prolific, and more importantly, philanthropic hip hop artist and entrepreneur, and wrote about my Finding Inspiration In Nipsey Hussle’s Beautiful Being.

In July, I wrote about what I intimated above: wanting to be about the work of breaking down racism, instead of just talking or writing about it. I wrote, If It’s Not What We Say About Race, It Must Be What We Do.

My last post of 2019, was born out of my frustration with myself for not speaking up when I knew I should–once again, in a situation where I felt coded language was being used to denigrate Black culture. In looking inward, I wrote When White Fragility Comes Knocking, which explored my own, and my college age daughter’s struggle to not fear having dialog about race.

I continued to keep up with educating myself by reading books like Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning, and How To Be An Anti-Racist, and joined in on the community book clubs for both books, led by The Center For Reconciliation. I kept up with blogs like Black Girl In Maine, published by BGIM Media, and helmed by Shay Stewart-Bouley.

I stayed inspired by daily learning about racism, and lived racial experiences, from friends, colleagues, and scholars, near and far, in real life, and on social media. And I stayed ready every day to do my best to speak up on not just the easy-to-call, blatant racism and racist statements I witnessed and heard, but also did my best to model my perception of what it means to ask questions during those moments that could so easily go unnoticed–those times where something needs to be said that de-centers whiteness, that speaks to who is being excluded, so that the spaces I move in recognize their white-centeredness, and do not stay white-centered, with hopes that other white folks, too, begin to chip away at the structures of white supremacy, and inequity. Things don’t always go as planned. I am human, and flawed, and stumble over my words much more when speaking, rather than writing. It is a process, but I know I must always try.

As the year comes to a close, like many of you, I feel, to put it lightly, disheartened, at the state of things these days, but I know I must stay optimistic, must keep on going, must keep on doing things to make things better, because for one, it’s white people’s job to do this work of breaking down racism and racist structures, and two, while I know we can’t daydream racism away, and we must seriously do the work, I am a relentless Pollyanna, and believe that things will get better. We will do the work to make things better, because can you truly rest your head on your pillow comfortably at night, as you settle for the alternative?

I want to thank all of you, readers, new and old, for being along on the journey during this year, and years past, and for all of the unwavering support you give to me.

I would love to hear what you have been up to this year. What you’ve read, who you entered into dialogue with, who inspired you to keep working to make things better for everyone. I wish you a beautiful beginning in this new decade, 2020. I wish you a decade filled with love, hope, joy, connection, and most important, freedom, and justice.

Thank you. xo

Happy New Year.

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT TO SHERRY GORDON, MY NUMBER ONE CHEERLEADER, WHO SENDS ME THE MOST BEAUTIFUL, UPLIFTING, MESSAGES, AND WHO KEEPS ME GOING WITH HER JOYOUS, LOVING, AND GENEROUS SPIRIT! <3 <3 <3

My First Letter To The Editor Published: And Its Barrington Clapback

11 Feb


photo: Joe Wilson, Jr. as Ulysses, and Cloteal L. Horne as Circe, in “black odyssey” at Trinity Repertory Company, Jan. 3 – Feb. 3, 2019 (photo credit: Mark Turek)

On January 23rd, 2019, I got my first Opinion letter published in our local newspaper, The Providence Journal. I was so mad about a review of Trinity Repertory Company’s play, black odyssey, written by the paper’s theater critic, Channing Grey, that I just had to write the letter.

The play, black odyssey, by acclaimed playwright, Marcus Gardley, is a retelling of Homer’s classic, The Odyssey. According to Trinity Rep, the play is how “one man’s journey home from war leads him on an adventure connecting him with his own ancestors and our shared humanity, before finally delivering him back to his wife and son.”

It is an epic tale–a layered journey of storytelling, with song, ritual, and time travel through ancient and current history of the African diaspora, including black American history and culture. The play is two hours and fifty minutes in length.

Here is Gray’s review:

[…]

The Problem With White People Time

22 Jan

fonny tish if beale street could talk
If Beale Street Could Talk
Tish and Fonny, If Beale Street Could Talk
(photo credit: The Atlantic)

We’ve heard it, right? People from various cultural groups talking about being on “black people’s time” or “Spanish people’s time.” In other words, the self-effacing joke that when they say they’ll arrive at that family function at 3:00 p.m. and show up at 5:00 p.m., they are not late, and every one already knows they are not showing up at 3:00 p.m.

Then, there’s the joke comedian Chris Tucker tells about the one thing he learned from dating white girls, was, to be “on time.”

There’s beauty in realizing we have different relationships to time. I remember my mother and aunts talking about trips to Spain to visit my grandmother, who had moved there when she retired. As a teenager, I loved imagining the dinners they spoke of, that started around nine o’clock and stretched to midnight with a languorous parade of tapas, wine, espresso, and conversation.

But time can become a problem when white people expect it to unfold in their real time. In all of my noticing, and consciousness-raising of my own whiteness, and whiteness as a whole, I have come to see how when we gauge an art form, or an event, or a social interaction through our white, European-centered lens, sense of etiquette, and what we’ve been indoctrined by white society to deem the way something should be done, we do a great disservice to black people, and of course to any other culture, ethnicity or race that is different from our own. To begin to break down our white-centered gaze, we must first remember how whiteness sees itself as the center, as the norm, and everyone else, as spokes streaming out from the center of the wheel of whiteness.

This whole matter of white people’s time came to my attention last week, when Joe Wilson, Jr., a main actor from the renowned Trinity Repertory Company here in Providence, Rhode Island, posted a social media note about a review in The Providence Journal. Joe, who is black, and who acts in and co-directs the currently running play, black odyssey, was incensed that theatre critic, Channing Grey, who is white, wrote the play “could use some trimming.”

The play, black odyssey, by acclaimed playwright, Marcus Gardley, is a retelling of Homer’s classic, The Odyssey. According to Trinity Rep, the play is how “one man’s journey home from war leads him on an adventure connecting him with his own ancestors and our shared humanity, before finally delivering him back to his wife and son.”

It is an epic tale–a layered journey of storytelling, with song, ritual, and time travel through ancient and current history of the African diaspora, including black American history and culture. The play is 2 hours and 50 minutes in length.

When I read the entire review, I was also bothered by other perspectives of the critic. Grey stated as if it was not enough for Gardley to not only show us “tortured slavery, …but also…police brutality,” it was as if he was saying, the nerve of the playwright to make me confront the ongoing history of black pain at the hands of whiteness. Another line about this being a play for “often forgotten audiences,” gave way to the reality of structural white-centered dominance in the arts, including who gets to say what is considered mainstream theatre.

But, back to white people’s time. When we say a play needs some trimming, we are saying that from our learned white-gaze, what a play should look like, how the story should be structured, how the art of storytelling should be expressed, how the actors should perform their lines, how the stage direction should go, and how tidily edited it should be. We are giving our white-centered critique of another group’s culture, which we do not know. Therefore, how can we critique it?

I can recall a time, of which I am ashamed of, when my own white people time showed itself. It was at a fundraiser several years back, highlighting the good works of local Black businesses. I remember catching myself thinking that the pacing of the event was slow in spots, and that the guests took too much time speaking at the podium. Then I caught myself, and said to myself: “wait a minute! When do white people ever give attention to black businesses, or host community events and notice who is included and who is excluded, or notice much else that black people do and accomplish, aside from our celebrity worship of black artists and athletes? And, so, while knowing black people don’t ever need my permission, or acknowledgment, I quickly jumped to the thought of, “go ahead! You should be taking all the time you want to stop and recognize yourself, and your peers, and to bask in the attention and praise you deserve. And, who am I to say how the pacing of an event should go, if I am only going to consider all the white-centered planning of events I have attended throughout my life?” I realized that my white people time was way off the mark, and I adjusted.

I almost had to slap myself when I caught myself using white people time again at If Beale Street Could Talk, a beautiful and deep film, inspired by James Baldwin’s story of the same name. The film was directed by Barry Jenkins, who also directed Moonlight. Stylistically, the film for me, with its use in places, of slow-motion cinematography, and time-suspended close-ups of its actors gazing into the camera, pulled me into another dimension of time, another dimension of being. The film asked me to slow down my i-phone, social media rush of a world, and simply be there in the moment with the young couple in love: Fonny, played by Stephan James, and Tish, played by Kiki Layne. The pacing of the film allowed me to get to know their families, their conversations full of weight, of gold, of lightness of being, their beauty, their love, their knowing determination to survive the reality of their lives living in their skin in 1970’s New York City.

There are a number of scenes where their love is shown through the actors’ suspended gazes at one another, and toward the end of the two-hour film in one of the scenes where Fonny is looking at Tish, my white people time kicked in. I wondered, could I do with a tiny bit less of the slowed moments, but then again, immediately after the thought came, I stopped my whiteness lens, and said, No! It is not for me to critique the movement of this film. Fonny’s loving gaze, the slowed moments that capture the love of these two main characters, and their families, is a love that white America rarely takes the time to see, to experience, to believe it exists.

The love of Tish’s family, the joy of living in all kinds of love–including family and friends–and the commitment to both, and also the deep knowing of the struggle to survive and thrive living as a black person in this country is something most of us white people don’t pay attention to. And so I acknowledged my white-centered lens had too thick of a filter on, and I flowed with Barry Jenkins’ flow. And, the flow was beautiful.

I realized, too, Beale Street’s storytelling wasn’t necessarily for me, or for white people to “get.”Some or all of it’s cultural signifiers and nuances, may skim over our heads, and hearts. But, it’s message of the reality of what it is like for black men to live and be wrongfully convicted–their lives “thrown away” in the unjust criminal justice system, and the impact that has on his families, is of course critical for white people to get. So is the portrayal and reflection of black people’s lives, humanity and narratives, when given dimension, and are seen in the world in a way so rarely seen in films telling white-centered stories, written by white writers, and filmed by white directors. Realizing all of this, I then had, and have, gratitude for being able to witness this story as told by its storytellers, Baldwin and Jenkins. I recalled Julie Dash’s film, Daughters of the Dust, and again remembered, time, and storytelling, is relative.

With all of this talk of white people time as it relates to black art forms and events centering the black experience, I am not saying white people don’t have the right to their own opinion about the quality of a piece of work, or can not share about how a piece of work made them think or feel, but knowing most of all of that is subjective anyway, what I am asking, is that as white people, we first take note of the lens we are looking through, and then, crush it.

Isn’t it about time we did so?

2016: The Year In Review. 2017: You Have To Do Better

31 Dec

Philando Castile Alton Sterling Umbrella

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling Mourning Umbrella

Philando Castile, Alton Sterling Mourning Umbrella for Providence, RI Memorial March

You know. I don’t even have to say it. 2016’s posts pretty much say it all, and this isn’t the half of it.  Thanks for following along throughout the year.

In January, I was barely done pondering how my father shaped my views on race relations, when the 2016 celebrity death avalanche started out, shooting an arrow to the heart with the loss of David Bowie.

In February we lost the great Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire, and Prince’s muse, Vanity 6’s, Denise Matthews.  We didn’t know then, what was to befall our Godly Prince.  In between those losses, I thought about how integration plays out in our day-to-day lives, noting that while we may have more diverse work settings than in the past, we still pretty much all live, and spend most of our time, apart from one another.

I got to highlight the first play written by friend, poet, Christopher Johnson: Invisible Upsouth that showed at the Wilbury Theater in Providence in March.

In April…in April..our hearts cried..Our Prince left our earthly presence and went up to make music with David, Maurice and Denise.

In May and June I became quiet on the blog, and in July I shared why, after a month of yet another, and another killing of Black men by police officers. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile lives were taken, July 5th and 6th.

Then I got quiet again.

In October I recalled a conversation with a friend, an anti-racism activist, who questioned my willingness to truly stand up against racism, all while standing in line for gourmet donuts.Later in the month I got to revisit Trinity Repertory Company’s Every 28 Hours plays, and their new Community Response plays, noting the sad state of the plays’ continued relevance this year.

And, just when I was hopeful for our future after hearing about the dynamic work of local community activists, and arts activism programming by youth from AS220Youth, at the AS220 FutureWorlds panel, I, along with much of the country, were devastated by the election of the new President, and what that will mean for Black people, women, and the Muslim, immigrant, LGBTQ communities. I channeled the memory of my mother, and she channeled Kendrick Lamar to let me know, with resistance, fighting the wrong, and love, we gonna be alright.

First setback after the election: the mistrial of the police officer who killed Walter Scott.  It was caught on video. And the judge called a mistrial. It’s December–and still you wonder why Black people don’t believe their lives are valued. As I stepped away from my writing desk this year to learn how to be an activist, I gave a tip of the hat to all those that came before me, and those currently working day and night to fight racism. On the cusp of 2017, I vow, like many of my friends, to stay vigilant, to stand up for what is right, to fight hate, and work for positive change. I vow to love. Sending love and light to all of you, and many thanks for all the love you’ve shown me this year. <3

 

 

 

 

A Tip Of The Hat And A Fist Raise To All The Anti-Racism Activists Past, Present, and Future

23 Dec

freedom-project-photo-w-text-web

light-brown-raised-fistI want to give major props to all the activists out there fighting the good fight. The good, hard, exhausting, frustrating, dangerous fight against racism. Personal racism. Systemic racism. Institutional racism. Jim Crow racism. The New Jim Crow racism. And every other kind of anti-Black racism in-between.

See, I’m like a baby taking its first steps when it comes to learning what it means to organize, to march, to protest, to take concrete political action to fight against racism.  Before this year, the only two things I could put on my activist’s resume was […]

Sadly, A Still Timely Encore: The Every 28 Hours Plays and Community Response Plays at Trinity Repertory Company

20 Oct

e28hours-2016-2

Every 28 Hours PlaysIt didn’t matter to me that I had already seen The Every 28 Hours Plays at Trinity Repertory Company last October.  I wanted to see them again.

Trinity Rep actor, Joe Wilson, Jr., was one of a group of fifty actors, playwrights, artists and activists invited to be part of the non-profit organization, The One-Minute Play Festival’s, Every 28 Hours Plays project. All fifty went to Ferguson, Missouri a year after the young, unarmed, black teen, Mike Brown was killed by a white police officer , and met with […]

What Can I Even Say?

27 Jul

wendys back writing-2I haven’t written here–not since my post on Prince’s passing.While I still lament the loss of our Purple genius, my mourning is not what has kept me from writing. Instead its been my decision over the past four or five months really, to instead of writing about it, just live my experiences with race–the thing I most think about in my day-to-day existence. (Yes, white folks, we have a race, too–well, we’re all one human race, but, shout out to Debby Irving,  to say race, that made up construct, is not just something other people have, and we don’t.) I’ve spent so much time going to this talk, that play, reading that book, having that conversation, all the while, feverishly taking notes so that I could write about my experience afterward.

Only thing is, when you are at a play called Every 28 Hours, a compilation of fifty one-minute plays on race, the […]

WJSS: Looking Back on 2015; Wishing To Find Hope

31 Dec

black-lives-matter

Black Lives MatterAs 2015 draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back at this year’s blog posts and share some highlights from each month. I am of course hoping that you’ll find the posts of interest to you.  I know for me, I thought it would be a good way to see what was going on around me, what I made note of, and recorded.

In January, I saw […]

Black Major Movement Rally In Providence

2 Nov

Today in my city of Providence, Rhode Island I attended a rally for the Black Major Movement on the steps of City Hall.

The Black Major Movement is working to make change in law enforcement, the judicial system, the school department and community organizations by calling for an increase in black leadership throughout the city of Providence, and in particular there is a call for the city to hire a black Major in the Providence Police Department, since there are no black officers higher than rank of Sargeant, and it has been this way for quite some time. The movement is being led by among others, community organizer, Kobi Dennis, founder of the Night Vision program, and the Providence Midnight Summer Basketball League, and Jim Vincent, President of the local NAACP.

The rally was a peaceful one, with people holding signs calling for attention to the lack of representation of people of color in leadership roles throughout the city, as well as wearing signs on their backs that read, “Black Major Movement.”  As noted in the Talk Back following Trinity Repertory Company’s “Every 28 Hours” I wrote about last week, the call for equality, and the statement that Black Lives Matter is not calling for violence against police–in fact the flyers announcing today’s rally circulated support that, clearly stating at the bottom, “Please Come In Peace As We Are Pro-Police.” The rally is instead a call for awareness, a call to validate the rights and concerns of people of color, and a call to validate the deservedness that black people  should have people that look like them represented in community leadership.

Here are some photos from today’s rally. I’m hoping that change will come soon, and wish to keep doing what I can to support this important work.

men with signs on back

 

Helen Baskerville Dukes and Eugene Monteiro

Helen Baskerville Dukes and Eugene Monteiro

 

sign

 

Some of the crowd at the rally, Kobi Dennis (far left)

Some of the crowd at the rally, Kobi Dennis (far left)

 

 

 

Trinity Repertory Company Performs Every 28 Hours, A One-Minute Play Festival

29 Oct

One-Minute Play Festival, Every 28 Hours

Every 28 Hours

I witnessed a historic theatrical event Monday night–the world premiere of the One-Minute Play Festival’s Every 28 Hours at Trinity Repertory Company here in Providence.

The One-Minute Play Festival is a theater company out of New York City that produces one-minute plays which aim to tell a neighborhood’s story through community engagement.  Every 28 Hours is the current festival theme, and is based on the events surrounding the killing of Michael Brown, a black teenager, by a white police officer in the summer of 2014 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Every 28 Hours stands for […]