UMTAD Statement in Response to the Murder of George Floyd

Statement of action in response to the Murder of George Floyd and in support of Black Lives Matter
Production Photo from 'Collidescope 4.0,' Photo by Dan Norman
'Collidescope 4.0: Adventures in Pre & Post-Racial America' (2019) Photo by Dan Norman
This statement was released to UMTAD students, faculty and staff via email on June 8, 2020.

To our UMTAD community,

You are reading this because you are a student, faculty, staff, alumni or supporter of Theatre Arts and Dance. 
 
As you are all undoubtedly aware, the Twin Cities have been at the center of attention for the past two weeks, both for the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police, and for the resultant responses to that killing. Students, faculty, staff, and alumni in the department have been on the front lines of protest, supporting the rebuilding of the cities through the lens of racial justice and honoring Black lives, and/or distributing diapers, toilet paper, and groceries to food banks. 
 
At the same time, we are wrestling with what this all means to us collectively. How does the department of Theatre Arts and Dance honestly respond to this moment and what it represents? 
 
We witness and sit with the weight of this question. The pain, rage, shame and despair. 
 
We acknowledge that this is not new. Where we are now emerges from a long and deep pattern in this country and the Twin Cities bears a troubling legacy of systemic racial violence and inequity which must be interrogated. Theatre and dance communities are not immune from these systems and our own department and University have much work to do at dismantling its own contributions to systemic oppression and racism. 
 
We are a historically White institution in a city that has been rated #6 for overall quality of life [2019 US News and World Report] but also rated the #4 worst place to live if you are Black [24/7 Wall St.]. (www.theblackmidwest.com/blog/georgefloyd). This contradiction is central to our reality and must be confronted. 
 
Part of our mission statement is “to educate about the social issues that the arts speak to so powerfully." Right now we need to ask ourselves urgent questions as a department. Questions which we will be accountable for.
  • Inclusion: How and why have we not yet been able to make our whole department and our campus fully welcoming and safe for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students, as they have told us for years?  
  • Education: What would it take to make training in cultural and historical literacy around race and intersectionality mandatory for all students, administrators, faculty and staff? We must do more to provide an education for all of us that addresses perspectives beyond white hegemonic discourse and includes a diversity of aesthetic expressions.  
  • Productions: How will we actively and measurably commit to putting systems in place that ensure the inclusion of BIPOC voices and artists in our curriculum and on our stages as a matter of course? The year of Jubilee commitment is a start as was the departmental work on Collidescope 4.0 last year and the strong leadership on equity and diversity provided by the Dance program for many years. 
These questions will form a scaffold for the immediate work we will do as we return to work from this terribly difficult time and the ongoing challenges of the COVID virus. We know there will be more and deeper ones as well. We will reach out to you as resources and we hope you will join us as we reflect and act on these questions.  
 
Many of our faculty, alumni, staff and students have already cultivated the tools to do the coming necessary work of healing and changemaking that our world needs. Our Social Justice concentration at the BA level, courses in Performance for Social Change and Dance & Social Justice offer some spaces to critique existing structures of harm. Many of our community are already leaders in challenging anti-Black racism. We will listen to them. 
 
How you can help now: We invite our UMTAD family to support Black led arts organizations in the Twin Cities by donating funds to them. A community sourced list of those can be found here and here
 
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin
 
Thank you,
 
Department of Theatre Arts and Dance, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
 
Image: Collidescope 4.0: Adventures in Pre & Post-Racial America co-directed by Ping Chong & Talvin Wilks in the Whiting Proscenium Theatre, Fall 2019. Photo by Dan Norman.

The projections in this image show the names and locations of Black Americans who have been killed at the hands of police brutality, lynching and violence in the United States. This is a fraction of the comprehensive list throughout history. 
The signs in this image read: PEACE OR JUSTICE FOR PHILANDO CASTILE, WE WON’T FORGET; ‘I CAN’T BREATHE’ - ERIC GARNER; JUSTICE FOR SANDRA

Along with our commitment to the Jubilee, we acknowledge that our departmental work on ‘Collidescope 4.0’ was only a small step in an inclusive and equal direction.
Category
Arts
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