Melissa Hillman’s post came just in time for me to see Brownsville Song (B-Side for Tray) by Kimber Lee at Shotgun Players. It’s great to know that at Shotgun, the answer is yes, both in front of and behind the stage. At Marin Theatre Company as well, where they regularly do more than one show by playwrights of color each season. And not waiting for February (Black History Month) to do it.
(And shout-outs of course to the theatres of color that regularly put this work on stage: African-American Shakespeare; Lorraine Hansberry; Gritty City Rep; Lower Bottom Playaz, who I haven’t seen yet; and others. Still, it’s important these narratives make it into the mainstream.)
And as a playwright, I regularly examine the stories I’m putting into the world for the kind of bias and images Melissa Hillman discusses. I haven’t written a specifically Black full-length play yet – I do have one in mind – I did write a ten-minute #BlackLivesMatter play, Off the Grid, for Playwright Center of San Francisco’s 24-Hour Play Fest when God and math “randomly” gifted me with a cast consisting of a Black woman, a Black man, a Latino man, and a White woman during a hunger-strike protest in San Francisco over a police shooting of an unarmed man of color. My full-length My Visit to America attempts to unpack the persistence of racial prejudice in our world and the consequences of our inability to eradicate it.
As I write this on LGBTQ Pride Day here in San Francisco, I’m reminded that the huge shift in our rights in recent years is at least partly due to the big shift in how we LGBTQs are being portrayed in films and television. When I was first coming out, there was always a gay character who killed themselves or was killed by someone else. I believe that mold was broken in the mainstream by the film Making Love (and on TV by Consenting Adult). Now, it’s typical.
I also remember when police and LGBTQs were not friends. (Not saying they are everywhere, but if there can be a small-town lesbian police chief, that’s a big shift.) If we can change this narrative for LGBTQs, we can change this narrative for people of color.
Media can help make that shift, and it is one piece that is in our power.
Here is Melissa Hillman’s post:
I had intended to write about the Philando Castile verdict. Philando Castile was murdered because an officer claims he believed Castile was reaching for his gun when he was reaching for his ID as instructed. That officer walked free. Had Castile been white, I believe that officer would have heard and believed him when he said […]