In the midst of this horrific moment when the emergency of the Coronavirus pandemic intersects with the continual injustice and dehumanization of black lives, I am reminded of the words of James Baldwin, one of America’s greatest literary artists: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”
Here we are sixty years later still provoked to that same rage. George Floyd faced cops who regarded his life with little value. Christian Cooper could not bird watch without his race being used to escalate police violence against him. Ahmaud Arbery could not run in his community. Every black person in America is staring at the fact that because of a history of social injustice ranging from housing to wealth creation, we are disproportionately infected with and die from Covid-19. Black folks in America are reminded every day that we are oppressed. That despite our shared humanity, the dominant power structures formed and ingrained by white supremacy seek to devalue our lives.
Even though I have lived my life dedicated to reminding America of its promise, I’m tired from the past few days of feeling sorrow, rage, fear and impotence. I have once again needed to lean on those close to me, to reaffirm that the younger members of my family hold tight in this moment, and to imagine how our society will get through this time and emerge in solidarity.
Some of us are funneling our response toward creating culture to provoke empathy and change. Carol and I turned to our past work to find some guidance. Geraldine Inoa, whose brilliant play Scraps opened our Color Brave Season, began with these words from the character of Jean Baptiste:
How are you supposed to win when you don’t even know the rules?
They don’t teach this shit in schools
These muthafucka, they stealin’ our family jewels
Our sons and fathers, nigga
You bettah recognize that they changin’ history
An entire generation of black men who were never allowed to be
Yo, they might have stopped hangin’ us from trees
But a century later, they still cuttin’ black people at the knees
At the Flea, we stand with our Black artists, staff, board, audiences, and supporters who bring their bravery and zeal to create a more just world. We stand with our POC and white allies who call out injustice, who engage all with respect and who help us to create an environment of equity and inclusion. In this trying time we wish that we could gather to make culture with our community, to rally the mind and spirit to envision and make the society we all deserve. When we re-emerge from this pandemic, we hope you will join us to help make that change happen.
Until that time, we stand in solidarity and encourage donations to Black Lives Matter.
Niegel Smith, Artistic Director
The Flea Staff