Sunday, January 18, 2015

Hands Up! What Will I Do?

Brandon Simmons reading a selection from Hands Up (photo by Malika Oyetimein)

On last Monday and this coming Monday, Valerie Curtis-Newton through her Hansberry Project is presenting HANDS UP: 6 Playwrights/6Testaments. She is a University of Washington theater faculty member (heading the graduate level program) and through their auspices is doing the reading at the Floyd and Delores Jones Playhouse (41st and University). 

I have not "done" anything specific in response to the murders of black men and boys recently, except to mourn inside myself, feel deeply despairing and completely unsure about what kind of personal connection I can make to these acts and the situation. I have felt uncertain about how much I know and really understand. I did not go to any marches. So far, I have sat on the sidelines.

I did do, Monday, what I could do as a theater lover: I could go to a reading. I could listen. I could absorb the understandings and emotions of the six pieces of writing that were provoked by the Michael Brown and Eric Garner murders. I could learn, I could absorb. 

If you also feel uncertain of what you can do, you can attend this reading, also. After the reading, Curtis-Newton will lead some discussion and point to the back of the program where there are some prescriptives, actions we can take to support changes that many say will make sense and help our country to be better.

Those prescriptives, developed by BlackLivesMatter and other organizations, mostly involve getting active with your local law enforcement and state/county/city legislative processes. They include:

1. Encouraging bodycams and dashcams for police officers
2. Legislating a special prosecutor for any officer-involved shooting investigation
3. Training law enforcement in de-escalation techniques
4. Having a Civilian Review Board (a robust one, I might add) that has supoena power
5. Investing in economic equity issues in poor neighborhoods

What you will hear, Monday, is a set of six short pieces originally commissioned by New Black Fest.

"Superiority Fantasy" by Nathan James (read by Russell Cotton)
"Holes in My Identity" by Nathan Yungerberg (read by Brandon Simmons)
"They Shootin! Or I Ain’t Neva Scared... " by Idris Goodwin (read by Reginald A. Jackson)
"Abortion" by Glenn Gordon NSangou (read by Tyrone Brown)
"Walking Next to Michael Brown" by Eric Holmes (read by Tyler Trerise)
"How I Feel" by Dennis Allen II (read by A.J. Friday)

They are a range of expressions encompassing many perspectives and feelings about the current state of race relations in our country. They will inevitably open up many different feelings for the audience. Especially if you have done nothing else, like me, do try to get to this reading.

The Brown Paper Tickets site might indicate it is sold out. It might be risky to ignore that, but last Monday, it also was supposed to be sold out and ended up (maybe because the initial ticket price was free/donation) only about 2/3rds full. That is just ridiculous. So, just go. Prepare to be turned away, but there is every likelihood that you will be able to get a seat.

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