Let’s talk about the “Black Lives Matter” dance that was performed during this year’s Night of Dance show, “Threads.” From the moment I first heard about the dance to actually watching it live at the show, I experienced a wide range of emotions.
Our country faces reoccurring waves of discrimination, and as a Black student here at Archer, I feel we are not doing everything we can to make our student body more aware of these issues.
I was frustrated about all non-Black dancers being in a dance about Blackness because of situations I have experienced on campus.
In classes, English and history in particular, the discomfort is palpable. My non-Black classmates struggle to talk honestly about race, which makes these conversations very uncomfortable.
I feel eyes on me while watching a documentary about slavery and watch people fidget and stumble over the N-word when it comes up in class readings.
There are even students at school who freely use the N-word— not to our faces— using popular excuses like “I heard it in a song” or “my Black friends use it and say it’s okay.” Both of which… just… I can’t.
We talk about these issues in our Black Student Union meetings frequently, so I know that girls in other grades are experiencing the same things in their classes.
When I learned that there wouldn’t be any Black dancers in the “Black Lives Matter” dance, it felt like a continuation of this problem. I even heard that some dancers wanted the dance title to be changed to “All Lives Matter.”
Here’s the thing. All Lives Matter is a problem. All Lives Matter does not exist. If all lives mattered, we would not need the Black Lives Matter movement. The dancers probably were not aware, but the hashtag “#AllLivesMatter” was started by people who oppose the Black Lives Matter movement and believe that being pro-Black is anti-White.
The purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement is to raise awareness for the inequality that people of African descent face in America.
It is similar to feminism in this way. We are looking for equality.
Given all these experiences, I did not expect my opinions about the dance to change so drastically.
But they did.
I wanted to be mad because there weren’t any Black girls in the dance, but its beauty made me completely forget my doubts.
I watched a video montage of facts and protests play in the background as the dancers told the story of racial discrimination and police brutality in black hoodies.
The hoodies, an homage to Trayvon Martin, were the first thing I noticed. They brought me back to when I was in ninth grade, hearing the news of the Black boy who was shot in the streets of Florida.
The choreography alluded to iconic phrases such as “Hands up, don’t shoot,” most notably used after the death of Michael Brown, and Eric Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.”
I ran backstage to congratulate the girls on their amazing performance and was greeted by grateful dancers who said they were glad to be a part of something so important. They said this dance helped them to understand the purpose of Black Lives Matter.
I also met Black choreographer Jennifer Locke, daughter of Archer’s dance program coordinator Andrea Locke. Before meeting her, I had heard that she was the type of teacher to make sure her dancers understood the purpose of their performances. I believe her convictions were evident that night.
Despite my previous fears, I felt honored and respected by the dance. Having people of different races perform the piece showed solidarity and appreciation for the movement rather than being dismissive of larger problems.
I am appreciative of Archer’s efforts to incorporate race into its curriculum and arts program. I also see the value in events like the annual Diversity Conference, but there have been so many times when I have felt like racial issues on campus are brushed aside.
This dance was powerful, but I am afraid that is going to be forgotten.
I believe that the Archer community has the obligation to take concrete steps towards a more inclusive campus.
1. Curriculum: We should spend more time on Black history and current events in the classroom. Archer faculty and administration should work together to reach this goal.
2. Lean into discomfort: The popular saying from our Arrow Weeks with the NOLS applies! Do not be afraid to talk about race. Please understand that you are not going to be considered a racist if you ask questions about race. BSU is one safe environment for these conversations. Teachers, if you feel uncomfortable talking about race, BSU is also available to you.
3. Acknowledge that race is real: Race is not invisible. This is a social construct that affects your fellow Archer sisters. Also, race does not equal Black. There are many other races that are affected by discrimination every day.
Archer is a place for girls to learn in the best ways possible. The “Black Lives Matter” dance serves as a call to action. Let us work together to broaden this quest for learning how to talk more about race.