“The Department of Theatre and Dance stands with the black community and is horrified by the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and most recently George Floyd. Our Department values diversity, inclusion and social justice. We are committed to eliminating racism and we pledge to support our black students, alumni, faculty and patrons. We recognize that words are not enough and we pledge our love and support to you. As artists and educators we have the power to enlighten and transform. The time for action is now. We must work together to create a better world.” – Joe Price, Theatre and Dance Department Head
To our black students, I want to offer condolences, support, and open arms. While people of color have been writing, talking, singing, and protesting about the killings of black people for generations, it never gets easier. However, you do not have to go through this alone. The world is listening and people are showing that they are willing to change themselves and change oppressive structures. Please reach out if you need help and/or assistance. These past few weeks have been tiring and depressing, but I have good news: “It is always darkest before dawn.”
To all of our students standing up for friends, family, and justice, keep up the hard work. This is a lifelong practice to engage in. If you choose to engage in this practice, you can help change the world for the better. Some of you may be wondering where to start. I have a few suggestions, but this is an individualized practice. Please look to community leaders on how to peacefully protest whether in the street or at the dinner table. Beyond the next few weeks, I also implore you to educate yourself and expose yourself to people different from you. Take a course from the Diversity Studies Department, take Theatre and Dance classes framed around voices of color and activism, ask your librarian to lead you to some resources. Read books on the history of racism, sexism, ableism, and sexual prejudice. Try to make room in your heart to hear a perspective different than your own. Learn to be an active listener and not just a responder.
I want to remind everyone that we are stronger together. True unity does require us to learn and study our differences so that they don’t become an inherent threat from misunderstanding. Change is uncomfortable, but it is necessary to ensure that everyone can live in peace and safety. Now is the time to envision a new path forward. We can build our community into something stronger, greater, more equal, and united. This will make us stronger if we all put in the work and remember to do things with love. Try talking to someone like they are a close sibling who doesn’t agree with you. You would try your best to meet them where they are because you love them. If you move through hard conversations with love we all can prevail. We cannot go back. Back no longer exists because it is the past. Can we repeat it? Sure. But when have artists been more concerned about repeating the past rather than forging and birthing a new future? I applaud you all for what you are doing now to get through this, and I applaud us for the creativity and innovation we are about to produce.
You all are artists. Use your artistic voice for good. Don’t be afraid of the power that you wield and let’s set an example for the rest of the world on how to face injustice, make change, and initiate real healing. We love you all.
-Azaria Hogans, Assistant Professor of Dance, MSU
5 Resources You Can Use Now:
1. MSU Counseling- Self Help Pages
2. TED Talks- Playlist on How to Understand Racism in America
3. PBS Race The Power of Illusion- Interactive Site
4. Teaching Social Justice in the Classroom Tips and Resources
5. Supporting Diverse Students