(Editor’s note: Yet another reflection from 2014 Summer Institute Communications Work/Study, India Harville, on her experience at the Institute. You can read more of India’s writing about the Institute here and here. Stay tuned for India’s final few reflections! –Amanda Newman)
This is the third installment in a three blog series about the Dallas Partner Presentations at the Summer Institute. Just to recap, The Dallas Partners are people and organizations that have teamed up with Dance Exchange and Dallas Faces Race with a commitment to advancing racial equity in Dallas Texas. Each partner led a 15-20 minute workshop or presentation.
Vickie Washington is a theatre artist and is the founder and producing director of r.t.w – reading the writers, a readers theatre performance organization. Vickie led us through an exercise called a Power Shuffle or a Privilege Walk. Vickie read various phrases about particular privileges people experience in society, and, if it was true for you, (and/or your racial group in some instances) you stepped forward. The experience was a stark illustration of the advantages of white privilege. It launched an intense conversation about the complexity of privilege – about how someone can have white privilege on one hand but not class privilege at the same time. We discussed how that impacts our perceptions and experiences of privilege. Concurrently, we were grappling with the idea that being oppressed in one area does not negate our responsibility to own our privilege in another area and to engage in anti-bias work. For example, even though I am oppressed as an African American, that does not negate the fact that I have cis-gender privilege and need to be an ally to trans people. Many people mentioned that it was a hard session for them but incredibly valuable session as well.
Vickie also did a dramatic reading of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer’s speech “I Question America.” For those of you who may not be familiar with Fannie Lou Hamer, she was a major proponent for the registration and engagement of black voters, and she helped to defend voting rights for black people. Fannie Lou Hamer helped to found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. On August 22nd, 1964, Fannie Lou Hamer addressed the Credentials Committee of the Democratic National Convention and told her story of the challenges she faced in registering to vote.
Vickie had us join in her reenactment with a refrain of “I Question America,” and let us ask our questions to America and post them on the walls of the dance studio. It was a provocative look at a powerful moment in American history, and I appreciated Vickie’s work to showcase this remarkable woman with whom some Institute participants were not familiar. As the audience engaged in the performance and posed their own questions for America, I was saddened some to think about what questions Fannie Lou Hamer might have for America now.
Roma Flowers is both a Creative Partner on the Dallas Faces Race Project and a Dallas Partner. Roma is a lighting designer and faculty member at Texas Christian University in the School for Classical and Contemporary Dance. Roma’s presentation showed us various aspects of lighting design and reminded each of us that we are aware of and influenced by lighting and therefore that we knew more than we realized. Roma illustrated for us how much the lighting design influences the overall tone and mood of an artistic venture though her amazing presentation of images and video. In addition, Roma used light and projection at various points during the Institute as additional dancers in our choreography. Roma will be supporting the final performative outcomes for the Dallas Faces Race project through lighting design.
The Dallas Partner presentations were a delightful addition to the Summer Institute and deeply enriched the overall experience. The presenters and presentations were very diverse, but they all furthered our goal of advancing racial equity through the arts and dance. I am grateful that I got to hear a little bit from each of the presenters, and I look forward to continuing to work with them on the Dallas Faces Race Project. The next big step in the project will involve Dance Exchange and Dallas Faces Race (including these partners and some additional partners) reconvening in Texas for the 2014 Race Forward event in November. Stay tuned to see what develops!