You cannot deny someone their story. You cannot take that away from them. It’s their truth, it’s their reality.
Statistics are easy to remove ourselves from. A story, you are implicated in, and you have to choose what side you are going to be on.
I developed Power: From the Mouths of the Occupied while I was an Artist in Residence at Kalamazoo College. I was thinking about the impact that Mike Brown’s murder had on all of us, as Black people in this country, and I remember thinking—you know, we don’t really talk about state violence and the criminalization we face as Black people on an everyday basis. Often, what hits the media is our death, but what about all the Black people who are living? How do we tell our survivor stories? So Power is Black people’s survivor stories of criminalization and state violence. I’ve done this in Kalamazoo, I’ve done it in my hometown of Los Angeles, and this past week I brought it to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in Seattle.
You have to prove more how terribly racist a place is when it’s calling itself progressive. And with this oppressive identity, Black people have to bear the burden of proof. Wherever Black people are in America, criminalization exists. Wherever there is a white-dominant space, deep racism exists as well—no matter how progressive. If you cut too far into that progressive, if you do something that’s too radical, white racism will emerge.
As Mic has written, “Seattle is ripe for such a production, given that its police force previously was under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice over abusive practices. In 2012, the Seattle Police Department agreed to enter a court-enforceable consent decree to be monitored, after the Justice Department investigation found that officers routinely used excessive force against subjects. Of the uses of force the federal officials deemed unnecessary, over 50% involved minorities, according to the DOJ’s report.”
Yirim Seck, Faisal Provincial, KT, Hodan Hassan, Monique Franklin, Akilah Franklin, Jah-Vi’ “SJS” Cotten-Cohia, Luzviminda Uzuri “Lulu” Carpenter, Marcel Baugh, and I performed 3 sold-out shows over the weekend. We told stories. Stories that built family. Stories that built Black space. We did this for ourselves – the participants first, the Black community, and then the audience. We told stories to stir action that will ripple throughout the community and create change.
Power has continued to evolve the already amazing work that’s being done in Seattle by the Black community. Thank you Seattle for taking care of my Black art.