Good morning. What a night. The terrible unrest continues. And the woeful lack of leadershjp makes us all vunerable.
And today is blackouttuesday, which began as a music industry initiative encouraging white folks to stay off of social media and allow other voices to be heard.
It began last night on instagram and by this morning my entire feed was little black squares. And I thought, should I not do the show today? Would it be inappropriate to be online, here, doing this? On several of the posts I saw, the call to action was to stop business as usual and focus on community.
But what if your business is community? And what if your job is to speak to your community about what’s happening? Right now? That’s been my aim with these daily shows from the beginning. Not as an expert, but as an artist, or an art leader, sharing experience, providing insight, or maybe just reflecting what everyone is going through. And what if you announced yesterday that the word of the day would be protest?
I decided it was better to gather with you all and to address what is happening, and hope to be of service to the community—that’s all of you—and to be of use to the movement, the moment. So here I am to talk about protest.
Protests scare me—wait, that’s not entirely true. I love the idea of protests, I dream of revolution, riots, the overthrow of power structures. But, the reality, the on-the-ground reality scares me. What if someone gets hurt? What if I get hurt? I’m a big guy but I’m also a reactive personality. I find it hard to let things go, as I’ve mentioned before, I have zero chill. I get in squabbles at the grocery store, the gas station, I work on this, try to not respond to every little thing. And, what is happening right now is not every little thing—it’s every BIG thing.
I still lived in New York City when the Occupy Wall Street actions were happening in downtown Manhattan and I so wanted to support those peaceful and hopeful gatherings but I knew I would get into it with a cop and something bad would happen. Some people aren’t meant for the front lines. Some are better sending letters, writing postcards, calling our congressperson…
I think it’s safe to say that we all want to be on the right side of history. And if this isn’t a historic moment, then, well…
I guess my invitation to all of you here today is to find the way of protesting that works for you. Not something that let’s you off the hook, “I’m protesting by taking a nap!,” but something effective that suits you, your talents, your nature.
Last week, I started making phone calls to people of color who are my friends, and who are members of this community. I don’t tell you this to virtue signal, as they say, but rather to tell you that for me, someone who never wants to talk on the phone, these efforts were intentional and they took me out of my comfort zone and they were wildly moving, powerful, great exchanges. Exchange. They changed me. The task I set for myself was to ask the person, “How are you?” And then, to the best of my ability, to listen. Now, those of you who know me know that I like to talk. I mean, I’m a great listener, it’s what makes me a good teacher and a crucial aspect of writing is to listen to words, how they sound, how they ring—but, I’m also a big talker.
Shortly after moving to New York City I was working with a counselor at the Actors’ Fund, her name was Patch and I loved her. I was new to the city and broke and underemployed and afraid all the time, and worried that I had made a terrible decision by uprooting myself from my sweet art life in Los Angeles.
One day, in the midst of a session about my qualifications and my skills Patch said, “Well, you’re a verbal processor,” as if it was something I already knew. But, I hadn’t ever named it. And yet, yes, I always have needed to talk to figure out how I feel and think.
This past Saturday afternoon, after getting off one of those calls I thought, listening, really listening to someone, might be the most generous thing one can do. And, maybe it’s even a sort of protest. In a world where we are surrounded by screaming and shouting and advertising and TV and all the noise around us all the time, what if we all just listened.
On one of those calls, my friend said, “If every white person would pick up the phone and call someone they know, a person of color, and just ask them how they’re doing, it would change everything.”
I thought today’s show would be worth if I could give a call to action. So, how’s that? The call to action is to white folks to call—ask someone in your life, a black people who are dealing with the ongoing violence in our country, Asian Americans who have been targeted because of the covid/china ridiculousness, Latinx who are suffering in far greater numbers than their white counterparts and often working in conditions that are unsafe and unhealthy, Muslim Americans who are always under threat, Native Americans whose communities are being ravaged by the virus--all of these people who are far more vulnerable than whites. Ring ring, hello? I’m calling to ask how you are? How is all of this affecting you? And then—with love—shut up.