Let’s Talk: #Ferguson at Penumbra Theatre

by Jacqueline E. Lawton

in Diversity & Inclusion

Post image for Let’s Talk: #Ferguson at Penumbra Theatre

(Photo courtesy of KARE. This post is a part of the Diversity & Inclusion blog salon curated by Jacqueline E. Lawton.)

On September 10, 2014, Penumbra Theatre invited the community for “Let’s Talk: Ferguson”, a discussion about the events in Ferguson, Missouri and the resurgence of activism around racial equity fifty years after Freedom Summer. The fatal police shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9th captured the attention of the nation. Subsequent protests and the police response have captured the attention of media worldwide. How is our community responding? What can artists do to support racial justice efforts? Sarah Bellamy, Co-Artistic Director, was joined by panelists Gebreil Khadar, Malik Curtis, Dr. Matthew Johnson, Richard Levins Morales, and Penumbra Theatre’s Director of Edcuation Dr. SooJin Pate. Hundreds of people attended the discussion, including theatre artists, social activists, scholars, and civil and religious leaders. Panelists addressed the shooting of Michael Brown, the long-standing and complex racial tensions in the United Stage, and the role that the arts can play in achieving social justice and racial equality. Please click here to watch the video recording of the event, or watch below:

Let’s Talk Ferguson – Sept 10, 2014 from Penumbra Theatre on Vimeo.

After the grand jury decided to not charge the police officer that took Michael Brown’s life, Penumbra Theatre Company shared the following on their Facebook page, reprinted here with their permission:

“In this time of great national concern around racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, Penumbra will continue to use art to promote social justice and equity. We’re also focusing on what we can do right here, right now, in our own communities, schools, and families. To that end, we’re re-posting a conversation Penumbra hosted about Ferguson in September as a resource for those of you who are interested. That evening, we also shared suggestions as to how you might take steps toward positive social action if you feel so moved:

5 things you can do to take action:

  • Tell a family member or friend about how you are feeling about events in Ferguson;
  • Teach a young person to see difference as positive rather than as dangerous or threatening;
  • Adopt the mantra “Black Lives Matter” and pass this on to one person each day for one month;
  • Take a moment of silence in your workplace, your classroom, and/or your place of worship to send healing energy to the families whose black sons have been killed; and
  • Organize a neighborhood conversation about the kind of relationship your community wants to have with the local police.

Especially for Educators:

  • Devote time in your class for students to share their reactions to Ferguson;
  • Check out ‪#‎FergusonSyllabus for resources and lesson plans to include in your curriculum; and
  • Ask the PTA to adopt a plan to ensure safe transit to and from school for targeted youth (e.g., youth of color, LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilites, youth who wear culturally specific or religious attire).

Hosted by Sarah Bellamy: Sarah Bellamy (Penumbra Theatre Co-Artistic Director) has designed several programs that engage patrons in critical thinking, dialogue, and action around issues of race and social justice. Select programs include Penumbra’s Race Workshop curated to accompany the Science Museum of Minnesota’s exhibit RACE: Are We So Different?, and the Summer Institute, a leadership development program for teens to practice art for social change. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Ms. Bellamy holds an M.A. in the Humanities from The University of Chicago and is currently the Visiting Professor of Theatre and Culture at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities. She serves on the board of directors for Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for the American theatre.

Dr. Matthew Johnson: Dr. Matthew Johnson Sr., is a graduate of Morehouse College and earned his Masters and Ph.D. degrees in Philosophical Theology from the University of Chicago. He is the author of three major theological works. They include The Tragic Vision of African American Religion, an analysis of African American religious subjectivity and understanding of the religious experience and its theological implications; The Passion of the Lord: African American Reflections, a book which presents the biblical, historical, and theological roots of African American views; and most recently, Onesimus Our Brother, an article that examines our unconscious assumptions about religion, race, and culture as found in the Book of Paul.

Ricardo Levins Morales: Ricardo Levins Morales has been involved in movements for social justice since he was young. He’s been drawing pictures since he was  even younger, growing up in the coffee-growing mountains of western Puerto Rico. Living in Chicago in his teen years, Ricardo became involved in support work for the Black Panther Party and Young Lords Organization, anti-war protests, and other struggles of the time. He circulated among factory, service, and printing jobs as a young man, eventually getting involved in the labor movement. Along with other artist/activists he formed the Northland Poster Collective which provided art and cultural organizing savvy to labor and other social movements. He currently works out of a storefront studio in South Minneapolis and continues to offer art, writing, and strategic support to organizers and activists.

Dr. SooJin Pate: Over the past decade, Dr. Pate has worked as a scholar, educator, and writer who has been dedicated to praxis that centers on the lives and experiences of historically marginalized peoples. Since receiving her Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of Minnesota, she has taught courses on critical race theory, women of color feminism, African diasporic literature, and U.S. history and culture at various colleges and universities in the Twin Cities area. She is the author of From Orphan to Adoptee: U.S. Empire and Genealogies of Korean Adoption (University of Minnesota Press, 2014). Her writings on African American literature and Korean adoption have appeared in academic journals and edited volumes. She is passionate about issues related to self-care and mothering. To that end, she is currently working on an collection of essays about the importance of self-care, as well as a book that explores how to raise a daughter of color in a white supremacist society.