The head of an arts centre – who will remain nameless – said to me “you only get work because you’re black”. It was just a few years ago. The arts centre is still funded by The Arts Council. His take on race and diversity displayed a corruption in him and his publicly funded arts centre.
I’m tired of it. I’m tired because race and diversity is not a problem. It is a solution and that’s the solution. Race and diversity shows more about character and humanity in individuals than almost anything else. I’ll try and explain what I mean.
Imagine a street of people, all one race. See them opening doors, closing the gates and going to work. See children playing on the street at weekend. See the single divorcee in his home, a widow in hers. See their differences. Many people. Same race. One street. Now a house is for sale – the divorcee sold up – and a Romany family move in.
How the people on the street react to the Romany family will tell me more about character and humanity than almost anything else. Think Othello. Race and diversity is an opportunity for humanity and character to shine or, in the case of the arts centre manger, to corrupt. Are we shining or are we corrupted.
Ask yourself how does the subject of race and diversity feel? How does it feel. Do you shine when you hear it or are you disgruntled. You can be both devoted (shining) and disgruntled. I am. Overall I experience people coping with a problem rather than enjoying seeking solution. The latter provides benefits to society and the former limits its potential.
The arts centre manager. He’s still there? I frightened his ass, told him I was concerned about young black boys entering his arts centre, told him I’d be writing to the arts council about his unspoken policy that a successful black man were not possible in his eyes – “you only get work because you’re black” – and that he had no idea who he was talking to. Told him that his own racism – there I said it – blinded him from seeing me, his neighbor.
I didn’t write the arts council. He apologized the next day – said he hadn’t slept – and he booked me (through my agent) to perform at his arts centre a few months later. I shouldn’t have performed there. It was a rotten gig: a corruption. It would fill a quota for his evaluation and none in mine. Except for money.
I will be at The Clore Ballroom in the Southbank Centre in London at 10am for the whole day to facilitate the exploration of the question What are we really gong to do about Race and Diversity in UK Theatre? If you have read this fully then you’ve already qualified to be there. It will be full of theatre and arts people, audience and players alike. Believe me when I say YOU are welcome. It is an Open Space event. Devoted and Disgruntled is special just read the invitation by Tyrone Huggins.