THE MOVEMENT BEGINS LIKE THIS…
Week in and week out,
I turn on my camera.
I introduce myself.
“My name is…He. Him. His.
I’m calling in from the Land of the Lenape.”
I look around the Zoom and “popcorn” to another member.
Welcome to the “WeSeeYou” weekly meeting.
Many familiar faces,
but also many black squares with only names displayed. Every week I scroll through two or three screens of them. The ones too shy to show their faces or maybe it’s just that they don’t feel like appearing on camera today because all they can muster is the strength to simply log in and listen in.
Sometimes I’m a “black screen”. On mute. Logged in. Listening.
We’re here to wage war on the White American Theater.
And make no mistake, it feels like a war.
Tearing down systemic racism is traumatizing.
The shit stings.
I wanted to quit months ago. I was tired of racism. Talking about it. Fixing it. Living it. I was tired of the meetings. The committees. The strategizing. I was tired of being thoughtful. Of choosing my words carefully. Of pontificating. Of being inclusive. Inclusivity is hard. It hurts the brain sometimes.
It is easier to stay ignorant.
To not change.
But the twin plagues of Anti-Blackness and COVID-19,
Demand that we change.
Not simply the minds of white people,
We must re-order our order.
That hurts the fucking brain.
I said to my husband: I’m not going to the meeting today. I need a break.
He said: Go to the meeting. It’s your church. And you deserve healing.
I googled the word “deserve” cause what the fuck does deserve even mean to a Black man in America?
Deserve — de·serve | dəˈzərv | verb [with object]:
rightfully earned because of something done.
He was right.
I DESERVED healing from the racism that I endured while working in the White American Theater. Racism that canceled my productions. My career. My reputation. Canceled my voice. My pen. My dreams.
We moved out of New York. Years ago. I used to think it was because we weren’t making enough money.
I now realize we left because “something was done”. To me. To all of us. And I was fleeing. I flee when shit gets hard…and I justifiably fled because shit was unfair. But when I wanted to flee from my own people, my weekly We See You support group, my husband reminded me that I deserved healing.
I logged into the meeting.
One of the elders decided to speak that afternoon.
She rarely speaks, but when she does: She slays.
The original Beyoncé.
A survivor of the civil rights movement.
Sister Slay is a playwright and director.
She reminded us that the fight is NOT NEW.
They did it in the 60’s. The 70’s. 80’s and 90’s.
They sat in. Protested. Shouted. Were arrested.
They did what we are doing and some of them are not alive to testify.
This is a long-running war.
Then Sister Slay, looking directly into our Zoom Room said:
But let me tell you what is revolutionary: You are talking to each other. On phones. On screens. Online and off. You have mobilized and galvanized with the click of a button. With a tweet or a post. With a letter and demands. 333 Signatories. 100,000 signatures on a petition. They do not know where the attack is coming from. They have no clear target. No place to point their weapons. No way to shut you up.
And THAT is what is new. And THAT cannot be stopped.
She hits her mute button. Leans back.
We sit in silence. Wiping tears.
Snapping and clapping.
We’re tired, but today we are inspired.
I look around the screen.
This Brown Brady Bunch of squares holding playwrights, AD’s, actors, directors, designers, administrators,
In our bonnets, our headwraps, eating fried platanos, with our children shouting in the background, our babies on the chest, on our exercise bikes, in our cars, our home offices, our backyards, Palms Springs, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Upstate and downtown, Tongva, Kickapoo and Lenape lands.
These are people that I’d see in passing.
We’d wave, but we kept our distance because we knew there was only room for ONE of us in a season. ONE of us in the Times. ONE of us holding the trophy.
We. Were. Sick.
But now here we are. And like Sister Slay said, we are talking to each other. And listening to each other. This shit feels deep. Like we clicked our heels three times and we are finally home, trying to heal, together.
This is a letter to everyone who has joined this movement. Not the #weseeYOU movement, but the #weseeUS movement.
Black, Indigenous, People of Color are seeing each other, working together, calling shit out, and calling love in. Hiring each other.
Holding fire to each other. Moving at our own pace. And exercising grace.
The healing is upon us. It is here. It is now.
And we must get healed like we deserve it.
And if you’re tired and want to quit, then do like I did:
Log in and keep listening.
Sister Slay might have a healing word.
Just for you.