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      AN INVITATION TO THE UNCOMFORTABLE by Taylor Nickerson

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      In the wake of “Blessings of the Pandemic,” as well as a video project I completed about Black History Month, I’m left reflecting……

       

      Reflecting on my knowledge of our history and my knowledge on others' history, and I’m left with an uncomfortable feeling: I’m ok with feeling uncomfortable. I’m a dancer……I live in the uncomfortable. I thrive in the uncomfortable. I’ve learned breakthroughs happen when you push through those uncomfortable barriers; you find the grace, you find the beauty, and you may just find enlightenment on the other side. So, I invite you to be uncomfortable with me for a minute. I can’t promise you will feel beautiful on the other side, but if you only allow yourself comfort, you only allow yourself to be stagnant…. Unmoving. So move with me…….

       

      I’m reflecting about my own education and the Black Americans I was taught in school. Powerful Black Americans like Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and my list begins and ends. These three people of color are all I remember learning about in school. As powerful as these individuals were, they were NOT alone. These three faces are just a speck of the influence the Black community has had on our nation. I have heard other names in passing within my school days like Fredrick Douglass, Josephine Baker, and Langston Hughes….why are they just names in my memory of my school days? Here’s the uncomfortable reality: they didn’t make the cut into our education because they weren’t deemed as important! This is not a slight on any individual teacher or school; this is my observation about our education system in total. 

       

      If not for Fredrick Douglass’s contributions, many runaway slaves would not have found freedom, many African-American soldiers would have continued to be treated horribly within the Union Army, and the Women’s Rights Act may have been even more difficult to pass without his unyielding efforts.

       

      If not for Langston Hughes, we may not have experienced the Harlem Renaissance movement through poetry. Martin Luther King, Jr. may not have been influenced to write the “I Have a Dream” speech if not for Hughes’ writings on dreams. 

       

      If not for Josephine Baker bravery who knows what would have happened if she hadn’t supplied the French Resistance with secret messages on her music sheets during the German occupation of France?

       

      These strong individuals are three more faces of color…… three more specks of the influence the Black community has had on our nation, on the arts, and on me. Why during Black History Month are we not taught in all schools about these Black Americans and the countless others who contributed to the United States as we know it today? Is it because we feel uncomfortable? Is it because we must learn a history that is not found in a single textbook? Or is it because it’s not mandatory? Whatever the reason, NAME IT.

       

      I’ll NAME my reason:

      For years I lacked the motivation for self-learning I thought, “Well ,Black history is important, but I know the gist of it.” How can I expect my students to fully appreciate a dance technique if I only show a few steps? How can my dancers fall in love with the Modern Dance without understanding the history and trials that form needed to go through to become the masterpiece it is? How can I as a white woman be an ally for my BIPOC friends without learning of the struggles they endured AND the accomplishments they have made? To answer all the above questions I can’t, until I teach myself. 

       

      I invite you to start with what interests you.  Art is my life, so Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Alvin Ailey, Katherine Dunham…. These just a few names that inspire me……What inspires you? Who inspires you? Who are the many unknown faces that allowed you this interest?

      Do you feel uncomfortable? It’s ok if you do! Learn through it, breathe through it, love through it, and beauty is waiting on the other side. 

       

      [Taylor was part of the cast of our first ZOOMED STAGED READING SERIES this past weekend. The next is this Saturday and Sunday: POSTCARDS FROM A DEAD DOG by FJ Hartland. Join the ZOOM!]

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