Sunday, October 19, 2008

Wig Out!

It was the same feeling I experience after eating a new dish and immediately knowing that I like it yet not being able to immediately identify all of the ingredients that make it so tasty to me. The sounds, sights and feel of the Vineyard Theater production of Wig Out! written by Tarell Alvin McCraney were delicious and after savoring it in my mind I realized what that secret ingredient was that made it so good.

The cast, lighting, costumes, wigs and makeup and skilled direction are all notable but the ingredient that makes it so good is the script by McCraney that taps into the desire of all men and women to simply belong. It is a desire that transcends and enters into the psyche of people no matter who or where they are. It is the desire that is often the basis for love and hate, clarity and confusion. Everyone wants to belong – to something, some group, or sometimes just somebody. It is a difficult journey to navigate – finding at first, and maybe even all at once – who you are, where do you fit in the world, how do you fit in it and how to maintain that mental and physical positioning. The play explores each of these questions through its characters and even tinkers with the question of what does one do when the place they thought they fit, they don’t anymore. Where do you go then, a new world or just a new place in the old one?

While the playwright explores the idea of belonging in a world, a family and in ones own skin that are universal issues, he chooses to do so in this work in a world, family and in the skin people from an often underrepresented, marginalized, financially poor black gay co-culture that the mass of audiences of the show are unfamiliar. That is an additional unmistakable beauty of the production as a means to educate through art sense. It shines the light, if only briefly, on the humanness of us all regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and class. Wig Out! is a much welcomed and delicious body of work.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Around the World in a Day

There was a single moment of being present yesterday and I think that is where all of this begins. Or probably better for me to say, that is where all of this, the events, thoughts and feelings of the past little more than 24 hours becomes so vibrant with color that my eyes that see internally and externally I haven’t stopped moving and bouncing. For they have seen so much, so hurriedly.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting on the eleventh floor of a building and found myself staring out the window at the dome of the Capitol Building. It was a beautiful afternoon and few clouds in the sky and it was a picturesque image – fit for any post card. As I sat there my eyes transfixed on the view of the Capitol Building the symbol and actual dwelling place of so much power of the country and influence on the entire world I heard stories from others in the room about the barriers faced by people with disabilities in their quest to find sustainable employment. Ignorance. Stigma. Inequity.

I have spent most of my civic life advocating broadly for people of color, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and college access for young people. It was the first time I’d really sat in a room when the disenfranchisement of people with disabilities had been the sole topic of discussion. At times I was dumbfounded. At times I was frustrated. At times I too was angry. The entire time I heard a whisper saying to me, “yes, this is for all of us.” For the root of what those advocates said were the barriers to people with disabilities gaining full equality and independence to in their communities – which is the same as everyone else’s neighborhood community – are the same things at the root of the disenfranchisement of every other group that is oppressed. The same as every other group that I have advocated with and for. Sadly, I know that it is some of the people that I have advocated with and for ‘our’ cause have contributed to the people with disabilities community issues and probably without ever even realizing it. We all have.

Staring at the cradle of law and power I wondered how and why it is sometimes not distributed equally and why in 2008 ignorance still lives in her prime while anti-oppression and global awareness and understanding that we are all one still lives in her infancy. Lord, I wish I knew.

There are a lot of things that I wish I knew, like why my day today was packed with moments that combine to make it a day I doubt I’ll forget.

This morning I woke up extra early so that I might arrive at an important 8:30am meeting in the middle of downtown before the rest of the participants would. Indeed, I did and it was productive meeting. It was held in at boardroom table in a pristine boardroom in a sharply remodeled office building with respected business men and women. I walked out at the end a colleague who seldom gives compliments paid me one. I smiled and dashed away.

When I returned to my desk there was a woman waiting to see me. She has been homeless for nearly three years, living on the streets and living with a mental health issue that requires some medication. She said that it was getting colder outside and she need housing before winter. She couldn’t live through another winter outdoors. Drop everything. Try to help. Call who I think I should call. Ask her and the people on the other end the questions I think I should ask. I asked one question. The answer left me stunned for a second. Only a second. I couldn’t visually react and just sitting there would get nothing accomplished.

All the rooms are full. Shelters are full. I learn that the agency that handles a particular type of housing voucher has just gotten to the applicants who submitted their forms and requests in 2002. This woman at my desk didn’t become homeless until 2006. We didn’t come to a final resolution today on her case but we did move closer to it. She left.

In minutes I threw on my suit jacket and dashed to a building so close to the White House many an elementary school student could jog to it from there and not be too winded. In this room I sat absorbing information from slides and speakers that reveal no matter how far we think our society has come, the truth is that children are being bullied, harassed and assaulted in schools for being or being perceived as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. The children. We must teach them now. I go back to work.

I toil through the rest of the work day and when I leave I call my mother. We speak. The economy is fracturing and I feel deeply. More than I right now, my mother truly feels it. I pray.

Before getting home I stop at the local grocery. As I walk home tired and pensive I look across the street and I see that rhythm. The rhythm in his walk distinguishes him from others. Then I see his backpack. That turns my smile into a frown and I turn my head, hoping that he hadn’t seen me. I knew what that walk down this street with that bag meant. But he did see me. I heard him call my name. He crossed to my side of the street.

He stood in front of me and smiled, Beauty. I hadn’t seen Beauty in literally a year. While I think about him on occasion, I don’t like to see him because if I don’t see him that means that he is staying out of trouble. If I do see him that means he is up to something he has no business being involved in and surely it makes me not want to be involved with him. But he smiles at me. He makes his long story short. It makes me sad. I met him in the fall several years ago. It is only in the fall that I see him. I wonder why that is. I will pray again that he gets better.

Finally I sit on my sofa, so much to think about from the day that I can’t think and I can only write. Until my phone rings.

It is Jimmy Jam and I’m surprised. Following our last exchange a week ago I certainly hadn’t expected to hear from him. The conversation started off smoothly. As it grew longer so did the distance that now temporarily divides the relationship that I have with my brother. I told him that we he said to me and about me hurt my feelings. He was unapologetic. He stood by what he said.

And I sit here on my sofa wondering about a lot of things. Praying that all things will work for the good of the Lord.