Updated: Feb 13
What surfaces in our experiences must be observed, witnessed, named so that we can find reconciliation. Reconciliation in the realm of white supremacy and the resulting racism and discrimination, I believe, is not about immediately making relations friendly or world views compatible (this would be a quantum leap). However, it is about making space first for multiple world views to co-exist - that of whiteness, that of blackness, indigeneity, and people of color from all around the world.
In negotiating the creation of space for post-show healing sessions with Black, Indigenous & People of Color (BIPOC) after the recent play Pass Over (more about the play here: https://www.speakeasystage.com/pass-over/), it was demonstrative to so many involved that the onus for creating space for multiple world views is on all of us. On white people to step back, and on BIPOC to step forward...and it's happening, though not without resistance.
In the play art reflects life, and two young black men are trying to get off the proverbial block and are continually harassed by a white police officer. Amidst this expected contrast, there is a seemingly friendly white man whose character, Master, feeds the men while making lighthearted conversation, but then in tones quick shifting from the casual to the aggressive, reminds them that he owns *everything*. Life reflected art as the house lights went up and a warm announcement from Reverend Mother shared that the space was going to be cleared for Black and Brown people to be in healing ritual together. Apart from white people. In some organizations, we are now calling this "affinity groups" or "employee resource groups." This is already a thing. However, in this setting, with a theater convention new to all, with a black female playwright (Antoinette Nwandu), a black female director (Monica White Ndounou), a plot line that sees the two young black men gain their internal power but then lose a life...what I witnessed, negotiated, and am naming that came up for collective recognition and healing is the following:
- righteous indignation from some white people who felt excluded from participating in the post-show healing ritual
- resistance and even disbelief from white and black people at the idea that the two young black men could gain internal power while in conflict with a white character
- white people feeling that their grief had no place to go and that white and black people should be together in their grieving process
- black, indigenous, and people of color in various stages of emotion at the layers of * watching a play about black people in a majority white audience (except for Blackout night!); and watching a play about black people's realities that they/we know all too well (thank you, Pamela, for your partnership in holding space)
- white people stepping up as accomplices to hold space for white people's grief in a separate affinity space (thank you, Johnny, Cathy, Valerie, Tonya and all who were willing)
- a director who is ready for our evolution, envisioning and enforcing that we succeed in creating space to hold and transmute the grief of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who have held the unique burden of intergenerational trauma from centuries of oppression
This is what came up for healing, all of which is reflected every day somewhere in our society and more personally, every day in the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The law of gravity. What comes up, must come down.
In the video below you will hear Antoinette and Monica (playwright and director, respectively) in conversation about the repercussions of being immersed in a potentially (re)traumatizing experience. They have differing viewpoints (Monica felt responsible for caring for Black & Brown audience members) and it seems right to me that we all choose our lanes based upon how we discern we can each serve and complement what others are doing. What is coming down? Individuality, stereotypical assumptions, inauthentic (externalized) power, false supremacy, revisionist history, dominated interior and exterior spaces. It takes a village to raise up a new paradigm.