It is hard to know where to begin, at such a moment of grief and outrage against the horrific violence perpetrated against George Floyd and so many others—a moment that is not momentary at all, but lifelong. Carolina Performing Arts has its home on a campus that has a full-throated history of racist ideology and action against Black people, in a region with the same, in a country with the same still. Our collective situation has been dire for some time, but perhaps we, wrongly, did not see it for what it was: an urgent call-to-action. Being able to even make this mistake or benefit from this blindness is itself a privilege.
We have work to do.
Many of us at CPA are drawn to work in the arts because we see it as a voice for the people—artists are activists, and they have been compelled throughout history to speak the truth, to make plain what we can’t or won’t, to expose the ugliness that so often simmers barely beneath the surface. To support such art, therefore, is to acknowledge the sacred right to make one’s voice heard against injustice, whether it occurs on the stage or in the streets. As such, the violent militarization of law enforcement against protesters in the United States is despicable.
To look across the spectrum of performance art is to see plainly who has been excluded from the canon throughout time. Often, when we invite artists to CPA, their performances take place in a venue that is itself a memorial to the wrong side of history. As a performing arts presenter on a university campus, our mission states that we strive to create arts experiences that encourage lifelong learning. In CPA’s history, our staff has taken pride in the multifaceted work we have supported that seeks to address the ills in our society, but we must go a step—many steps—further.
As others have said: it is the time to be vociferously, actively anti-racist. Part of that means listening more than speaking: to our BIPOC staff, community, artists, and colleagues. We will engage our staff in anti-racism trainings, and ask ourselves, and others, difficult questions. We will not shy away from the answers.
We will remain committed to presenting, commissioning, and curating art by people of color. We recognize that the premise that we must make such a commitment is itself faulty, and will work to correct it within our organization and with our peers. We urge our staff and audience to disrupt the structures of white supremacy, systemic violence against Black people, and oppression, and for those with privilege to use it in service to our fellow humans.
This is a humble start, certainly. In recent days, many of us have seen these words of Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Carolina Performing Arts stands in solidarity with the Black community, and we are committed to doing our part to dismantle the deeply embedded systems of racism and oppression on our campus, in our towns, and in our country.
For anyone looking to take action by supporting local organizations, we encourage you to support the NC Community Bail Fund of Durham, Take Action Chapel Hill, Community Empowerment Fund, the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, Spirit House, NorthStar Church of the Arts, Hayti Heritage Center, Culture Mill, Orange County Justice United, and UNC-Chapel Hill’s own Campus Y. You can also find anti-racism resources provided by the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion at this link.
We stand with you.