Contributed with care & reflection by Terry Knickerbocker
Right now, so many of us are all reeling with anguish, rage and despair at the recent murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, David McAtee, among many others. We remember the murders of black people before them – Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Laquan McDonald, Tanisha Anderson, Walter Scott, Bettie Jones, Michelle Cusseaux, Rodney King, and so many other senseless tragedies. We are horrified by the implicit racism exposed in the encounter between Amy Cooper and Christian Cooper in Central Park.
And then we wonder – what to make of all of this, and what to do about it. It feels like a tipping point. I pray it is. It must be such a time, because if not now, when? As such, it is incumbent on all of us to step up to make the changes individually and collectively that we can make, and to hold our leaders and government accountable. As President Obama said – it is a time for protest and politics.
As a white leader of an actor training conservatory in Brooklyn, NY, it is my responsibility to provide a brave space for all who wish to train. We believe in the power of story, and the necessity to include everyone in our beautiful art form. Everybody deserves a place at the table. Everybody deserves equal pay, equal treatment, equal rights. Everybody has a right to feel like they are safe, and that they belong. Until every student, staff member and faculty member at our school feels safe and treated with dignity, then we have work to do.
Art reports the world back to itself – holding the mirror up to nature. The purpose of art is to help all people realize the essential truth of what it is to be human. If the space where we are making art and training future artists isn’t taking an active stand in dismantling systemic racism, violence and oppression, then we are complicit in the continuation of these malignancies. We have work to do.
When every day, people are told that they don’t matter – and treated as if they don’t matter – that is a system of racism, marginalization and oppression that cannot and must not stand. Black lives matter. It is the duty of every one of us to act. We have work to do.
One of the hallmarks of our school is our commitment to community. As such, we make the following pledges—to examine every aspect of our school and see how we can do better:
•We recommit ourselves to principles of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging in all the work that we do, for all those that we serve and collaborate with. This includes working closely with the TKS Diversity Committee, initiated several months ago by our students to build a school where not just some, but all, can flourish.
•We will gather information and do the work that is ours to do. We acknowledge our privilege and take responsibility for what we need to do to become better. We commit to learning more about the history of racism and oppression that brought us to this moment. We commit to relentlessly look inside ourselves to see how we have participated in white supremacy. We recognize that this will be an uncomfortable process, and we are hopeful that leaning into this discomfort will lead to change.
•We are committed to making the world better, safer and more equitable and just. We take a passionate stand against racism and systems of oppression. We won’t be neutral. If we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem. We therefore commit here and now to be a fully anti-racist institution. This means that we will not merely say we aren’t racist, or, worse, assume it’s known we aren’t. We commit to being actively anti-racist–to taking action.
•We recognize it would not be enough to only acknowledge generally the ways we participate in white supremacy in this country. We commit to also looking specifically at our school’s blind spots, and then addressing them with honesty and humility. We understand how important representation is–especially in the arts. Representation must be reflected in the rooms where people learn to hone their craft. Students must see themselves in their staff and faculty. We are actively working to do better in this regard.
Below you’ll find the starting list of resources we’ve compiled as part of possible actions we all can do to help. If you know of more, please share and we will add them as we move forward together. Please do what you can. If we all do our part, we have a chance to make things better and put an end to the legacy of injustice and oppression that has gone unchallenged for far too long.
*We encourage you to research before donating to see which organizations have reached their goals and which are still seeking funding.
-George Floyd Memorial Fund on GOFUNDME
*When available, consider donating to these activists for their work on educating the public.
-Rachel Cargle @rachel.cargle (The Great Unlearn)
-Look for “75 Things White People Can Do For Racial Justice”
-Layla F Saad @laylafsaad (Me & White Supremacy)
-Brittany Packnett Cunningham @mspackyetti
-Ericka Hart @ihartericka
-Reni Eddo-Lodge @renieddolodge
-Ibram x. Kendi @ibramxk
-No White Saviors @nowhitesaviors
-Rachel Ricketts @iamrachelricketts
–White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo, PHD
–Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
–The 1619 Project – Nikole Hannah-Jones
–A People’s History of the United States -Howard Zinn
–Teaching To Transgress – Bell Hooks
–The Color of Law – Richard Rothstein
–So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
–How To Be An Antiracist – Ibram x. Kendi
–Black Feminist Thought – Patricia Hill Collins
–Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics – Marie Gottschalk
–Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower – Dr. Brittany Cooper
–Bring the War Home: The The White Power Movement & Paramilitary America– Kathleen Belew
–The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander
–I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou
–I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness – Austin Channing Brown
–Just Mercy – Brian Stevenson
–Redefining Realness – Janet Mock
–The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century – Grace Lee Boggs
–Heavy: An American Memoir – Kiese Laymon
–This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color – Cherríe Moraga
–The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson
–Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston
–The Bluest Eye – Toni Morrison
–The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
–Another Country – James Baldwin
–Citizen: An American Lyric – Claudia Rankine
–Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde
Jackie Sibblies Drury
Jeremy O. Harris
Tarell Alvin McCraney
Francisca Da Silveira
Jordan E. Cooper
–13th (Ava DuVernay) – Netflix
–Just Mercy (Destin Daniel Cretton) – Made free to stream for month of June
–When They See Us (Ava DuVernay) – Netflix
–I Am Not Your Negro (Raoul Peck / James Baldwin)
–If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins / James Baldwin adaptation) – Hulu
-American Son (Kenny Leon) – Netflix
–Native Son (Rashid Johnson / Suzan-Lori Parks) – HBO
–Dear White People (Justin Simien) – Netflix
–Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler)
–The Hate U Give (George Tillman Jr.) – Hulu with Cinemax
–Selma (Ava DuVernay)
–The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
–Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975
–Pass Over (Antoinette Nwandu / Spike Lee) -Amazon
-Much Ado About Nothing (Public Theater) – PBS Great Performances