June 8, 2020

The THDA community is devastated by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers.

Mr. Floyd’s senseless murder is one more chapter in a long history of devaluing human life on the basis of difference. We acknowledge that this country was founded on the land of Native peoples, and its economy built on slavery, exploitation, and violence.

We direct our attention to our Black colleagues, students, and neighbors. We see you, hear you, respect you, and cherish you. We stand with you in solidarity in this time of deep sorrow. We mourn the countless generations of Black persons murdered and victimized by systemic racism since 1619.

The killing of Black people must stop.

As artists and members of an institution of higher education, we acknowledge our responsibility in creating experiences that dismantle white supremacy and fairly engage the many identities that our Department welcomes and represents. As we navigate a range of emotions—from terror to numbness, from deep sadness to rage, from hopelessness to a burning desire to effect lasting change—we also see the possibility for constructive action.

The Theater and Dance Department will continue to intentionally pursue equity, diversity, and inclusion on stage and in our classrooms, shops, and offices. This coming academic year, we will remain committed to learning how to implement anti-racist pedagogical strategies and to decolonizing our syllabi. On and off stage, our determination is to hold space for conversations about injustice as well as healing, and to foster mutual understanding and accountability. As the year unfolds, we will be sharing readings and other materials that can guide insightful dialogue. Our strengths and weaknesses will inevitably come to light; because we are a community, compassion will drive us, making us empathetic listeners and allowing us to work together toward change.

True change demands action on at least three levels. The first is within ourselves; it is important to be self-reflexive and examine how our personal biases manifest in microaggressions, gaslighting, silence, and more. This step toward change may bring forth uncomfortable but necessary examinations of our unconscious participation in toxic social dynamics. The next level of intervention includes our immediate social circles; as we explain above, the Theater and Dance Department will support artistic and critical endeavors that welcome and respect our many voices. Finally, we must continue to fight for change in society at large.

This will be a long and arduous fight. We need our community to be emotionally well, strong, and healthy to be ready for the year ahead of us. When we reunite this fall, we will be wrestling with the ongoing fight for social justice amidst a pandemic and an unprecedented economic crisis. And we shouldn’t lose sight that the next presidential election is rapidly approaching.

As we grieve the loss of George Floyd, we need to take good care of ourselves and of each other so that we may remain powerful agents for change. We need to focus our energy and efforts.

Kindness and true friendship will give us the necessary respite in the months ahead. Audre Lorde wrote, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” Mr. George Floyd’s final words ring in our ears: “I can’t breathe.” To honor him, we must make space for breath and for breathing. From air comes fire, and we need it to burn down social injustice.

Dance and theater have the power to be transformative. The stage both mirrors the world around us and makes space for us to collectively imagine alternative realities. We invite all to join us in the process of bettering ourselves, our community, and the world we live in.

In friendship,
The Theater and Dance Department faculty and staff