By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
As the movements for social justice and equity go forward, there has been a lot of looking inward – and looking backward. People who have felt marginalized for far too long are starting to raise their voices and call out the injustices – intentional and unintentional – they have endured for years, or even generations.
In the initial wake of George Floyd’s murder, a group of BIPOC theater artists in the Bay Area began an online document where they could share their stories – publicly, but anonymously. It should come as no surprise that theatre, like so many institutions, has largely been in the control of white males, and this privilege has been made manifest in ways large and small, visible and hidden. In the first three days over 600 people told their stories, and the document now has nearly 2,000 entries. Everything from an off-handed remark in the rehearsal room to the cultural lack of awareness by designers (for example, theatrical lighting requires a different approach for people of color) to the selection of programming that, while “passable” to audiences of 50 or 75 years ago, now contains insensitive or offensive material.
This document has started conversations – constructive, thought-provoking, tough conversations. And it has also inspired another document – a call to action, even a list of “demands” from the BIPOC community to create a theatrical community that truly embodies justice, equity, and anti-racism.
I read this call to action and immediately felt overwhelmed. It felt like I had to completely and immediately overhaul the entire theater or else go out of business. It was dispiriting.
I took a break, breathed deeply – and was reminded of a song from Frozen II (and I deeply apologize that this is taking a turn into Disney) – “The Next Right Thing.” In the scene, the characters face an existential crisis, and they are separated and alone. They are overwhelmed and scared and unsure. In this moment, one of them sings:
“Take a step, step again
I went back and read the document again. I recognized there were steps we had already taken; steps we were about to take; and steps we had not yet thought of taking. All of these steps make up a journey, and journeys do not happen overnight. Look at each moment as it comes, and make the right decision in that moment, and move to the next moment. We will stumble, we will get it wrong from time to time, but all of the steps together will have moved us to a better place.
So much is happening in our country now, and there is so much despair, and fear, and anger. Trying to tackle it all at once is overwhelming. But we all can take our individual steps, and next steps – we all can do our own next right things. And together we can take a journey, and together we can move towards the world that God wishes for us.
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.