Yesterday I wrote and meant to share this draft. Today, not only did I learn that it wasn’t published, but the details surrounding my subject may have changed.
One story claims that Is God Is‘ Black Out Night has been cancelled. Yet details are still on the National Arts Centre’s website. As a popular Oprah gif says, “So what is the truth?”
While wandering through the internet, I learned that there’s been a bit of a buzz surrounding this:
Is God Is introduces the first NAC Black Out Night.
Long story short, Is God Is is a play featuring a Black cast. It is written by a Black woman, Aleshea Harris, and its central characters are Black women. Here in Canada, it will be showing in February at the National Art Centre. And one of its performances has been reserved for Black (or Black-identifying) audiences.
Where does the buzz come in? Well, there are a few articles out there that present these pending showings–referred to as Black Out Night(s)–as a problem.
Most of the titles of said articles make me cringe. Their writers and editors seem incredibly determined to paint a Black-focused event in a negative light.
Which made me wonder: What’s really going on here?
What’s the REAL problem?
What are people actually objecting to? And just what is it that they are they afraid of?
People have complained about Is God Is‘ Black Out performance using loaded terms like “segregation”. I’ve even seen a headline that says as much. Yet let’s take a look at that word for a moment. In fact, let’s go back in time and think about how segregation was actually practiced.
I know my country has a bigoted past of its own. Yet when I hear “segregation”, the first thing I think of is the Jim Crow laws of the United States, and the discriminatory practices that inspired the Civil Rights Movement. Fast forward to today: In their daily lives, are the people who aren’t invited to Is God Is‘ Black Out performance being treated in an inferior way? Are they barred from seeing the play altogether? And are they being harassed for simply not being Black?
The hostility that this Black Out performance has been met with suggests that negative assumptions have been made simply because Black people have been invited to attend a gathering. And what are the complainants’ actual fears?
Why is it that whenever BIPOC or other marginalized people plan a get-together that focuses on us, certain people are ready to declare war? Such antagonism suggests an underlying concern: Perhaps they believe that a Black-only (or Black-focused) meeting means that we are on the verge of plotting something that they might not like…? Dear Culturally-Paranoid Personnel: Our lives are not so focused on you that we plan events that do not include you in an effort to make you miserable. Honestly. Black people have the right to seek to restore our souls in peace.
Over the past few years, I have seen ignorant people look at initiatives such as Black Out performances and automatically assume that the creators’ intentions are nefarious. If that is you, then you need to take a breath. When Black people and members of other vulnerable groups gather to experience art, it is because we are interested in enjoying ourselves in a healing environment. Art truly is a medium that has sacred, restorative power.
Turning the Tables
Thinking about this kerfuffle surrounding Is God Is, I couldn’t help but wonder: If we were talking about a women-only showing of The Vagina Monologues, would the complainers be as loud?
Dear Reader, I’ve likely explained my tactics before. Yet in these situations, I tend to use analogies involving sex or gender. For, you see, somehow, SOMEtimes when you change the differing factor to something that Certain Folks find more palatable, all of a sudden, what’s being complained about becomes relatable. Yet because race is involved, for some reason, these same people insist on being enraged. Especially when the race of the people involved happens to be Black.
People who have this type of bias need to consider why they think as they do.
I will say this as a Black woman: There is something special about experiencing culturally impactful material when you are among an audience of your peers. Meanwhile, in today’s world people are determined to be enraged over issues that have nothing to do with them. I can’t help but want to ask such individuals: Why are you angry about not being invited to a performance that you otherwise likely wouldn’t be interested in in the first place?
I also know that Is God Is is showing in February. At this point it’s incredibly hard for me not to recognize that there are folks who don’t even want to let Black people enjoy a performance that is dedicated to a Black audience during Black History Month.
Yet if we can’t enjoy a work of Black-focused art then, then when?!
Realizing that people really are that selfish, I’m bracing myself for the days to come. I have no doubt that next month there will be further incidents involving people who are determined to be upset about Black folks who aren’t doing anything that is actually harmful, but are merely… *checks notes* celebrating their culture and themselves.
Honestly. I am so tired of all of this.
We deserve to be free.
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