The #WeSeeYou White American Theatre movement is ready to end a battle it didn’t start

A revolutionary declaration of BIPOC Demands deconstructs anti-Blackness and racism, dramatically changing the ecology of American theater. 

Boots are on the ground. Battle lines are drawn. A collaborative network of more than 300 BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) theatermakers are in garrisons and trenches across the nation, ready for a revolution. #WeSeeYou is demanding—not asking for—change, and is ready to fight the good fight through its recently released Principles for Building Antiracist American Theatre and BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre. 

#WeSeeYou enters the staging area with a declaration of war in the form of a Statement setting the parameters of the struggle.

The weapons of war are meticulously prepared and drawn in the form of Principles to guide their plan of attack. They intend to win the war:

… when we lift the veil of white supremacy, we know how best to support our theatrical expressions, our cultures, and ourselves. We are resilient. We carry ancestral wisdom. And so we are ending a war we did not start.

Principles of combat are designed to take no prisoners in a document that can be read as a declaration of liberation in a war fought for the soul of American theater. The spoils of war will be shared in the form of a more equitable presence for Black folx and People of Color:

We demand—as the global majority—a bare minimum of 50% BIPOC representation in programming and personnel both on and off stage. This applies universally to all hiring tiers of Broadway, Off Broadway, regional theatres, funding recipients, artistic commissions, production departments, front of house staff, offices, professional training centers, unions, agencies, casting companies, critics and the media establishment.

The principled Rules of Engagement in this conflict demand fundamental changes in Codes of Conduct and Transformative Practices:

We demand structures for our protection in white spaces and with white collaborators immediately.

We demand safe and exclusive affinity spaces for BIPOC protection inside all institutions. Antiracism is what makes us safe.

We demand a transformation of our theatrical expressions.

We demand your commitment to radical change now, and we will hold you to it.

To download the full demands, click the image above.

Complement to the Principles, The BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre is a living document of shattering intensity and razor-sharp specificity. Singularly drawn up by a BIPOC collective of foot soldiers accustomed to battle, it’s a non-negotiable peace treaty cum interlocking strategy that marks the urgency of its demands.

BIack folx and People of Color alone leaned in to create it.

Unlike most truces after defeat in battle, however, only the victors call the final shots in this peace treaty. The BIPOC Demands for White American Theatre is written by soldiers of fortune who have nothing left to lose. It attacks the front lines, the flanks, and rear forces that have resisted change in American theatre for millennia:

It is culled from years of discussion between members of the Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) theatre communities immersed in the dynamics of which they speak and bear the contradictions of our many concerns approaches and needs…. This technique is designed to hold the multiplicity and urgency we lay claim to given the persistent devaluation of our voices. We are speaking to be heard at the front and back of the house.

It is the intention of DC Metro Theater Arts to continue focusing a wide lens on this incredible historical moment in the struggle to change the landscape of how theater is expressed in America.

Interim Editor-in-Chief John Stoltenberg has committed to making DC Metro Theater Arts a beacon of light for this movement, and I intend to provide ongoing coverage of the #WeSeeYou White American Theatre movement as progress unfolds:

DC Metro Theater Arts stands in solidarity with this movement, and we offer our communication channel to help amplify the BIPOC voices that now are pointing the path to American theater’s future.

Quoting the #WeSeeYou movement, “racism and white supremacy are cultural formations constructed to rationalize unjust behavior for economic gain, and eradicating them requires radical change on both cultural and economic fronts.”

A multidisciplinary, multigenerational BIPOC collective has taken up the charge as true revolutionaries and courageously assumed the position for dismantling anti-Blackness and racism in American theatre.

The strength of its forces will be felt through holding feet to the fires of accountability.

The moment is here. A movement unfolds. The time is now.

DC Metro Theater Arts aims to be part of the process.

RELATED: ‘Theatermakers of color call white theater to account for systemic racism’

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Ramona Harper
Ramona Harper is a retired Foreign Service Officer (career diplomat) of the U.S. Department of State. While in the Foreign Service, her specialization was Public Diplomacy and Cultural Affairs. Her overseas postings were Senegal, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Panama and Germany where she presented American visual and performing artists on behalf of the U.S. Government. Before joining the Foreign Service, Ramona was a counselor and administrator in higher education. Her academic work includes a Master of Science degree in Counselor Education from Florida International University and a Master of Science degree from the National Defense University. Ramona is an avid theatergoer, dance enthusiast and a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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