RACE has crystallized as a crucial, defining issue of our nation and our era. Every week, we read about another incident involving the death of an unarmed African-American man, or the punishing, irrational marginalization of a person of color. This issue belongs to all of us, but it can be hard to talk about, and even more difficult to know how to affect positive change. Despite media projections to the contrary, we are not divided. We are not helpless in the face of the issue, and it is not bigger than we are. Change begins with YOU!
Sandglass Theater, in collaboration with Next Stage Arts Project, is hosting a unique residency as part of their Voices of the Community series. Race Peace is the brainchild of three Louisiana and Mississippi theater companies: Mondo Bizarro, M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction), and Junebug Productions. The residency will run from April 27 to May 2, 2015.
In their eight years of activism, Race Peace has developed an extensive track record for engaging with communities and organizations. Their project blends interactive performance with facilitated discussions to inspire dialogue about race and racism. Race Peace works to develop action plans addressing the specific issues and needs of each individual community. The experience is energizing and engaging. People can be present, heard, and wholly invested in the discussion: “We hope to create reciprocal, ongoing partnerships in the effort to undermine racism, and seek out a lasting, celebratory peace.
On Thursday, April 30 from 2-5 p.m., Race Peace will facilitate a workshop with local law enforcement officers and community members. The intention is to join in the nationwide dialogue about police/community relations, with special focus upon race. While calls for dialogue typically occur after a racially-charged incident takes place, this workshop represents an effort to open up dialogue preemptively—and, in so doing, to avoid any such incident.
In an era when we keep reading about examples of police officers viewing things one way while communities view things differently, Race Peace works to bridge the existing divide. Race Peace will create conditions for both police officers and everyday citizens to feel that their stories are being valued and heard. Using recent news items as prompts, participants will engage in personal storytelling in small, facilitated groups to help everyone gain insight into the experience and perspective of others. The goal will be to increase racial awareness among everyone in the room, and to bring police officers and community members into deeper understanding. You can hear Race Peace interviewed on WKTV by Chris Lenois on Wednesday morning, April 29 from 8-9 a.m.
The Race Peace team will also work in close collaboration with Brattleboro Union High School and Putney Central School via workshops that allow groups to listen to—and learn from—one another. The goal is to expose the roots of racism and racial misunderstanding, and together lay the groundwork for justice and peace. The residency will culminate in performances that combine workshop outcomes with original material by Race Peace.
In the Spring of 2015, I was a Senior at Brattleboro Union High School, getting ready with college applications, and very busy. I was told about a workshop that was happening called Race-Peace. I was intrigued but didn’t know whether I had the time or energy for this. A few of my friends were doing it, so i said yes, and decided to do it, even though I had no idea as to what I was getting myself into.
This workshop has completely changed the way I look at the world and people. My eyes were opened wide to people and all of our struggles. I was obligated to sit in a room with people that ordinarily i would not have hung out with. To be honest some of these people intimidated me- some of the students told me that they thought I was exclusive and privileged and snooty. I can totally see how they thought that, after all our worlds never collided at school and they didn’t know me as a per
son and i didn’t know them. This workshop brought us all together – helped us speak frankly to one another – realize that we cannot judge people from their picture. Everyone has a story, and we listened to each other’s story. Some of these people are now my friends. I wish that I had gone to this workshop in Middle school or even Freshmen year.
I am so grateful to Eric Bass from the Sandglass Theatre for opening this up to the schools. I feel that I am changing for the better. I am looking at ways I can integrate Social change and Social justice into my life. I have studied theater all my school life, and now i hope that I can learn more about how to bring people from different social backgrounds together. It’s sounds dramatic, but this has changed my course in my life.
K.M. – Brattleboro Union High School
Presented by Sandglass Theater and Next Stage Arts Project,
as part of the Voices of Community series.
This presentation is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts,
ArtPlace America, and the National Performance Network.