The Existence of Black Theatre Amidst Ongoing Pandemics:
COVID-19, Anti-Blackness and The Movement for Black Lives
Black Theatre Commons – July 9, 2020
In response to the disproportional effects of COVID-19 on the Black community, continued State-sponsored violence and criminalization of Black skin. The Black Theatre Commons (BTC) is drawing on our mission to activate our collective resources to amplify, nurture, and support Black theatres and practitioners through advocacy, convening, networking, and knowledge-sharing.
BTC is a network of theatre practitioners who self-identify as members of the Black/African Diaspora. The creation of the Black Theatre Commons (BTC) was birthed out of a need within the field for an arts service institution that can provide infrastructure to Black Theatres and Black individual practitioners. Our institution is founded on the practice of working from a commons methodology that works to design systems that allow for resources to be accessible to all members of the chosen community.
There is no monolithic Black Theatre, and Black Theatre Practitioners have a practice of connecting our art to radical cultural and social movements. Such was the case during the Black Power Movement that birthed the Black Arts Movement, which also birthed The Revolutionary Theater in the 1960s.
“The Revolutionary Theater is shaped by the world and moves to reshape the world, using as its force the natural force and perpetual vibrations of the mind in the world. We are history and desire, what we are, and what any experience can make us.”
– The Revolutionary Theatre, Liberator, Amiri Baraka, July 1965
At the recent Theatre Communications Group (TCG) Convergence Convening, Nikkole Salter, Independent Artist and Co-Chair of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion committee of the TCG Board, delivered a keynote to Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in the field, responding to the effects of COVID-19 on their lives and work.
During the keynote, she stated, “But it’s not the first time the ground has been shaken. And, let’s face it: we people of color are used to having our worlds rocked. We’ve become adept at dealing with viruses – that is, entities that invade our cells and use our energy to multiply their image. Smallpox. Yellow peril. Syphilis.Typhus. Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome. Enslavement. Colonialism. Yes, we all have inherited some shaky ground. And, in that sense, as the current generation is alive and still reppin’ our bloodlines, I suppose we could declare victory over those past viruses. After all, we’re here. Alive and kicking. Some might say surviving those viruses has made us stronger. Immune even. Perhaps. Yet, if we’re being completely honest, we cannot deny that we have suffered many casualties on the “viral” front lines. We’re still here, yes, yes but at great cost.
But WE are STILL HERE.”
In the self determinant spirit of Salter & Baraka, this fall, the BTC will curate a series to articulate, amplify, and support this catalytic moment: “ A Call for Revolutionary Theatre 2020. ”
Building on the work of diverse Black practitioners in our field, A Call for Revolutionary Theatre 2020 will bring creators, leaders, and community stakeholders across the U.S. together in a digital series of articles and events. This virtual series will explore and deepen our critical understanding of the effects of current events on our Black theatrical institutions, Black artists, and Black liberation through theatre. We will introduce a space for BTC to amplify the reality, beauty, and complexity of our experiences during this turbulent and transformative moment through collective action. Stay tuned for more information and updates about “A Call for Revolutionary Theatre 2020.”