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BWW Exclusive: Chesney Snow Speaks Up About Racism- 'Be Radical'

BWW Exclusive: Chesney Snow Speaks Up About Racism- 'Be Radical'

As BroadwayWorld previously reported, our team is committed to to being a substantial part of a collective industry-wide effort to help address racism and white supremacy in the theatre in as many ways as possible; including a number of specific steps of action that we are already at work to implement.

If you are a Black artist or an artist of color and would like to share your stories, your work, and your experiences, or to recommend someone else that we should get in touch with for one of our initiatives, please feel free to email us at

Below, read a piece from writer and performer Chesney Snow (In Transit), who is currently in Minneapolis. He writes:

I have been collecting my thoughts over the past week as I process, along with my fellow Black theater artists, the collective trauma of this moment. I work with a few organizations that are seeking to have a conversation about race in America and within our artistic community. I want to preface my message by saying that I work in Rikers Island as a storyteller, in NYC public schools as a teaching artist with New Victory, on stage as a writer, actor, and director. I have a Drama Desk award which has garnered me some amount of recognition for my work. I am thankful for all the theater has provided including some of the hardships that have formed me. I have also been wrongly arrested, assaulted by NYPD, had my human rights violated by Wisconsin court systems, and I certainly endure the legacy of American slavery and Jim Crow, as many of my brothers and sisters do. I outlined this in my choreopoem The Unwritten Law.

If the theater community wants to "help" then they have to be a consistent ally and most importantly BE RADICAL. We do not need lip service to change in 2020 and beyond. A line must be drawn at this moment. I just want to remind my LGBTQ brothers and sisters in the theater community that Black Americans not only built this country's wealth with the stolen lives of our foremothers and forefathers, but we are the foundation on which so many of the rights this community now cherishes are built upon. But we don't benefit from these "rights". Remember it was once considered "radical" to hug a person dying of aids. Will you be radical with us? Will you truly stand with us or will you disappear once the news cycle changes and the fires subside. The theater community has been largely silent on matters of systemic institutional racism and the police state that Black Americans have been submerged in for centuries. That is unless it is in relation to sexual identity or gender identity. I do not say this to be divisive. I love my LGBTQ brothers and sisters. In fact many are on the front lines right now. I say this to be real. I say this to the professional creative class and the "stars". To have an honest dialogue. There was seemingly little solidarity when we buried the victims of the Charleston church massacre. We need you to do more than stand with us. We need you to be radical with us! Dr. King was a "radical". Harvey Milk was a "radical". Malcolm was radical. James Baldwin was radical. Lorraine Hansberry was radical. Harry Belafonte is still radical. Will you be radical with us? Or are you content with a social media post? It is not enough to "stand" with us. You have to be a radical. You have to be willing to risk and sacrifice. This won't be easy. We need you. Sure our talents and voices are awesome and pleasing to hear. Protest with your "art" certainly. That's easy. We need you to do what's hard and I will leave it at that. Black people in this industry have to make decisions everyday that we know hurt our careers. We are seen as troublemakers when we speak up about systemic racism and let's not forget the sexism in our industry. I could list countless experiences of racism and even sexual assaults that I have endured in our theater community as a heterosexual cisgendered black American man living under the threat of death and impoverishment virtually everyday. We need a real discussion about race in America. We cannot fight this battle alone. It should not be our cross to bear alone. I have been brought to tears by how many different people are now finally coming together for our battle for freedom and equity. I work all day and then cry with tears of rage and anger and pain and despair at night. I have a son. I am a black man. I have a right as a human to live my life with equality and security.

When we seek to tell our painful stories I always hear this term "trauma porn" thrown around a lot. It is extremely dismissive. We need to have these complex conversations. Our community needs to be a leader. Let's do this. Remember Robeson "ARTISTS ARE THE GATEKEEPERS OF TRUTH."

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