Dear Community Arts & Social Practice Practitioners,
Something’s happening here. What have we done and not done? Who have we left behind? I fear that in the activist world we haven’t been present to all the different kinds of pain people are feeling in our nation. There is pain from racial oppression, from the clenching fist of patriarchy, from religious and ethnic discrimination, transphobia, ableism – but what other pains are people in experiencing our country? We have to listen to them. We have to listen. And not just to the communities that are undergoing layers and years of systemic oppression—(don’t kill me when I say this) we have to listen to everyone.
I don’t think there is real difference between ‘real’ pain or ‘imagined pain’. People act based on their feelings. If someone feels they are losing power (‘disempowered’) then that is what they feel. We cannot dismiss this. We cannot dismiss this because people act based on how they feel. We have to understand why.
Isn’t that our job as cultural workers, to respond to the needs of culture? Our country is changing and we need to be on top of this. If we do not listen and stay present with all these types of communities, we will forever be divided. Listening is an act of love.
I know it is kind of crazy-feeling to give space to people whom you feel are hateful/hate you. I urge you to learn about Ghandi’s concept of satyagraha loosely translated to “insistence on truth” or “non-violent action” – and we’re talking violence of mind and body. Many Civil Rights activists of the 60’s, termed ‘New Ghandians’, practiced satyagraha. Performance arts activist L.M. Bogad explains that “for ‘New Ghandians’ like James Lawson…this was more than just a tactic; it was a spiritual and religious state of being, internalizing love for one’s oppressors.” (14 Bogad). Heroic John Lewis (current Congressman Representative in Georgia) proclaimed that “’you have to do more than just not hit back. You have to have no desire to hit back. You have to love that person who’s hitting you. You’re going to love him.’” – John Lewis (Bogad 14)
And obviously, it is hard, but we don’t want our country to become blind, as Ghandi warns us that “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind”. Maybe we need to tap into the ineffable first lady’s words “when they go low, we go high”. So hard. So needed.
We have work to do. We are all in pain. All of us. Let us do the work to see each other. It is the only way to truly make America--this beautifully diverse, dynamic and resilient place--great again.
Bogad, L.M. Tactical Performance: The theory and practice of serious play. New York: Routledge, 2016. Print.