Recognizing the world as a place faced with contradiction in gender and race, Breai Mason-Campbell and the Guardian Baltimore Dance Company deeply connected the themes and ideas from James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time to ideas that artists are tackling today in an artist talk and performance event held in McGuire Hall on Thursday, January 31.
Campbell began the discussion by addressing the real dangers faced by many individuals simply because of the color of their skin, “Countless people in this city live in danger for walking in the skin that they were born with,” says Campbell, “and it’s an issue that needs to be brought to the forefront to bring about change.” To dig deeper into her concerns, Campbell defined several terms that can change the way society addresses the problems of gender and race.
Calling In – Creating a safe space as a starting point to talk about issues and ask questions without feeling a sense of shame or ignorance with those that you know and can trust.
“At an LGBTQ conference in Baltimore, people came together to talk
about issues and the participants started turning on one another as the
conference began. From this we can learn the importance of recognizing
those who are fighting similar causes to our own and practice calling
them in to the discussion rather than out. If someone says the wrong
thing, ask the question ‘How can we reframe that statement instead of
turning on one another?”
Heroes and Villains – Following the theme of contradictions, the same people that we often see as heroes we also see as villains, and what we love them for we also hate them for.
“Everything that society loves about Colin Kaepernick, it also hates
about him. It is ok for him to use his abilities, power, and position in
society to injure his body, but it is not ok for him to use his visibility to
make a change for a social issue that is so prevalent in our society.
Additionally, men envy his strength and ability, but they refuse show
him respect if he does not remain silent and play the part that he has
Innocuous Racism – An oxymoron that defines a type of racism prevalent in society in which people do not recognize its harmful effects despite its damaging influence on cultures.
“Many of the dances exercised in fortnight are taken from artist of
color, making the game a representation of innocuous racism. Despite
the fact that the use of black artist dances may not bring physical harm
to the black community, it is a systematic harvesting of black
intellectual property that has been taken without compensation to the
artist and has awarded financial benefits to the creators of fortnight.”
Visceral – Crossing of some particular boundary that causes strong reactions of discernment, leading people to kill or discriminate against one another.
“Most people have an instant reaction to kill a spider and not allow the pest in their house. What happens when we take these strong actions against other human beings, such as taking up a fear against black people? The Guardian Baltimore Dance Company used the art of dancing to inspire a visceral reaction within the audience as they divided the dance floor by race and gender.”
Vulnerability – Being judged by your race and gender, which leads to damaging assumptions that impact education, safety, and community.
“Segregation has been outlawed, but laws do not change the way
that people feel about one another. By choice, people continue to
live separated on race rather than in an integrated way. Many claim
that it is a safety concern but it also impacts the education and
schooling systems. The second vignette performed by the Guardian
Baltimore Dance Company explored the idea of vulnerability as it
took an emotional front to stand up for the victims of gun violence.”
Vision – The path that dictates where the future of society is going, and the alternate path that it can take instead through aspiring change and making a difference.
“The final vignette performed by the Guardian Baltimore Dance
Company created a community of people coming together with no
regard for race or the color of their skin as it explored the notions
of pop culture vs. living through folk art. One by one the dancers
demonstrated how to come out of ourselves and our own prejudices
in order to form a communion with one another and spread the
message of LOVE.”