Future We — Push Through
Have you ever seen a woman give birth?
When it happens on television it always fits conveniently between commercial breaks, underscored with dramatic music, but in real life, birth is no respecter of time or sound. From the moment the water breaks there’s no turning back. The baby pushes against the cervix; the pushing sends nerve impulses to the brain; the brain stimulates the pituitary gland to release oxytocin causing contractions; and the contractions cause the baby to stretch and push against the cervix even more. It’s a feedback loop that can only be stopped when the baby is out of the uterus, or the mother is dead.
Women giving birth labor for an average of twelve hours. During a vaginal birth, when the head of the baby crowns — no matter how prepared everyone is, no matter how long, arduous, or dangerous the labor has been, no matter how exhausted the birthing woman is — doulas, and midwives, and nurses and doctors all instruct the woman to summon the energy to PUSH.
The possibility of freedom and dignity has been being conceived in the minds and hearts of our ancestors since their first engagement with the perpetrators of empire — the ambitious and misguided genocidal enslavers — who sought to take those things from them. The ancestors of Indigenous and Black people across this country have been conceiving, gestating and birthing the possibility of sustained freedom and dignity in our society ever since. And with the immigration of all the many cultures and ethnicities of color that have also joined us on Turtle Island, new freedom strategies have been born, but nothing yet that ends the indignity, the hierarchy, and the unnaturally extractive white supremacist world view once and for all.
In our field people of color have been woefully extracted from, exploited, degraded, abused, mis-represented, and excluded. That’s been the amniotic fluid “nourishing” our artists and theatre workers of color. The womb pregnant with these ideals has been in flight, fight or freeze mode for generations, pumping theatre workers of color hoping to experience Life in this field, full of hormones that can, at best, attempt to prepare them for an industry that is literally dangerous to their health and well-being.
So when the BIPOC theatre workers became pregnant with ideas of equity and equality yet again, anyone could understand those who felt grave concern. ((So many babies born still. So many kidnapped. So many murdered.)) But the BIPOC, Black Lives Matter Movement is the mother/father of this new effort, a unification of people of color under a common cause perhaps for the first time in our field. And this new consortium is producing a new demand for freedom and dignity.
Given the national and international circumstances of 2020, it’s a miracle that our current pregnancy made it past the first trimester, let alone come to full term. But it has. We can all feel BIPOC people and their allies stretching open the portal door of change. The dam has broken. Our Movement is sending signals to the powers that be that we’re coming, and their contraction only causes us to stretch more.
Change is within our reach, AND NOW ITS TIME TO PUSH!!!!!!
Push for cultural exchange that is respectful and appreciative, not appropriative
Push for a national narrative that tells the complex and nuanced Truth of our BIPOC experiences on every stage in the country
Push for Audiences, Boards, leadership, Staff and artists that are as diverse and intersectional as the nation actually is —
For casting, staffing and work environments free from bias and social stratification
For five day work weeks
For a professional culture whose value of family is evident in its policies and procedures
For a fair industry that inspires growth and innovation, not the Hunger Games
For an embodiment of diversity that extends beyond racial, ethnic, gender, and sexuality demographics to include diverse ideologies, educational backgrounds, cultural forms and aesthetics
For credit, appropriate remuneration and rights retention for BIPOC theatre makers
For wages that allow us to take care of ourselves and our families with dignity
For productions by, about, and FOR BIPOC people that have more than one slot per season
For curriculum and pedagogical approaches that include BIPOC perspectives across the globe
For realistic access to affordable healthcare
For theatres supported more by the communities they serve than by single foundations, wealthy donors and corporations
For training programs whose tuition doesn’t leave emerging theatre workers in crippling debt
For ticket prices for non-profit theatre that are as inclusive as those for church or school, since they all have the same tax exempt status
For ticket prices for for-profit theatre that undermine economic stratification
For critics that function more as historians of a diverse nation than cultural gate-keepers or maintainers of white supremacy
For producers who don’t view productions that center BIPOC artists, perspectives and experiences as “ inherent risks”
For LOTS of thriving, well resourced BIPOC producers
For LOTS of thriving BIPOC owned and operated nonprofit and for-profit theatres of color in every conceivable corner of this nation
For LOTS of thriving BIPOC students, professors and administrators
For organizational models that allow theatre professionals to move into and out of artistic practice and administrative leadership multiple times throughout their career because artistic jobs are as plentiful, valued and stable as administrative jobs
For artistic and business practices that honor the sanctity of the land and environment
For a society that views the services we render as theatre professionals as essential
For audiences that engage us for enrichment and life practice as much as they engage us for entertainment and diversion
For access, agency, and autonomy
SO LET’S PUSH, DAMNIT!!!
This revolution might be televised and streamed, but there will be no commercial break. There will be no triumphant musical underscore. There will be sweat, and blood, and piss, and shit, and every other bodily fluid imaginable. There will be breath and groans we have never known we could produce. There could be tearing at the skin. There will be pain.
But in the end, after the pushing is done, we know in our DNA it is the prolonged hope of our ancestors, that we be skin to skin with our twins — Freedom and Dignity — looking into their souls, marveling at the miracle of Life they represent in our present, humbled to tears by how far we’ve come, and elated for all the possibilities ahead.