I mentioned before that I was a part of LINES (Leaning Into New Experiences and Situations) a diversity presentation put on for freshman students during their summer orientation. This piece was a dialogue that our entire cast was a part of and while it talks about events that were current last summer, I thought that it was necessary to share with the news of Alton Sterling. Although I don’t have the video clip mentioned at the beginning, it was a video of all of the deaths that occurred and were caught on film, of a fraternity yelling racial slurs at the top of their lungs and other horrific events.
After the video montage was over the curtain came up and we recited the words below. When it was over Glory by Common & John Legend played as the lights dimmed and the curtain came down and EVERY SINGLE TIME multiple cast members walked off stage crying because of how devastating it was.
BLACK IN AMERICA 2015
(Montage of media stories from the incidents below)
We could go on. And on. It is happening everyone. It can happen anywhere and we will speak their names.
When I heard about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. I was dumbfounded. I was tired. Really tired of hearing about the killings of men who look like me in this country. I was angry. I was hopeless and I didn’t understand why the lives of men with brown faces don’t matter. And then again with Tamir. And again. And again.
Music to me has always been a way for me to escape. To lose myself in beats melody, and lyrics. Or to find my voice in those same things. Find someone to say the things I wanted to say, to speak the sentences I couldn’t or wouldn’t put together. Someone that has a voice. I remember laying in my room listening to that track that J Cole put out after his album. Be Free. He rapped “All we wanna do is break the chains off. All we wanna do is be free.” Over and over. And I felt that pain. I felt that need. In light of the tragedies of the last year, listening to that song brings me to tears every time I hear it. It makes me angry and sad and determined to do something.
The loss of those lives has led me to think about what I want be in the future. Who I want to be in the future. I don’t want to be a statistic. I want to be a success story for future generations. I want to be a man of character. A man of worth. I want to dedicate myself to my community. My family. My friends. Because we matter. We do. But I’m so angry. And we should all be mad. We should all be outraged…
At the coded language
At the school–to-prison pipeline
Access to healthcare and quality education
That if your name sounds stereotypically “black” you’re less likely to get an interview for a job
And discouraged from buying homes in certain neighborhoods
Or denied mortgage approval
And have harsher sentences than your counterparts for the same crimes
You should be outraged at police corruption and the brutality it inflicts on those with the least amount of power and influence and voice
At the fact that racist language is explained away by “tradition” and every Halloween we hear of parties not meant to celebrate a culture, but mock it through stereotypes, assumptions, and black face
That in 2015 Black mothers and Black fathers still have to tell their children, you must be 10 times as good to be considered and warn them that their protest may be considered a riot
That people find the response to an oppressive system more distasteful than the system that caused a response. That we got 24/7 coverage of Baltimore “thugs”, but almost none on the biker gang in Waco that left 9 people dead. We
should be livid and moved to action at a system of institutional racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism that permeates our identities.
You should be mad that I or anyone is compared to a stereotype before we even open our mouths. They aren’t just assumptions. They have implications and biases that can be deadly.
Racism isn’t over. We don’t live in a post-racial society. Reminders that we’re less than or not the norm happen everyday. On the street, when I watch TV. Even in class. When we watch a film in class, or read a book, and I raise my hand and ask the professor why there are no people of color in the book or film and the class laughs like it’s some preposterous question. They laugh. And from their chuckles, I hear my answer: because we are not thought of, we are not seen, we are the most visible when people condemn us and invisible when we want to be seen the most. We’re not supposed to be in the book. We aren’t meant to be seen, we do not belong. When we say Black Lives Matter, we say it because history has taught us that sometimes they do not. We seek justice.
Dr. King famously wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.
It’s as true today as it was in 1963.