A moment for the Speak About It history books!
This Black History month, our staff and educators reflect on a moment in recent Speak About It history...our first-ever all POC show! This past December, five Speak About It educators showed up to the New Hampton School and realized the whole cast identified as a POC! Program Manager, Oronde Cruger, and Educator, Maya Williams reflect on what this exciting experience meant to them.
An influx of messages of excitement overwhelmed our WhatsApp group chat when our group of five (Jeo, Kyra, Olivier, Alexxis, and myself) realized that we would be performing together as an all people of color (POC) cast at New Hampton School.
We hadn't realized it before, but Oronde, our Program Manager mentioned that this was a big deal, this was the first time Speak About It has ever had an all POC cast perform for a school.
As actors of color, during our initial trainings for Speak About It, we talked a lot about the impact of representation. We spoke about how especially in media and sex education, that representation is often limited. As racially diverse as this year’s Speak About It cohort is, in each cast, there are still only a few POC educators, sometimes three, but usually only one or two. That can be isolating.
That day, I had a lot on my mind outside of the show, and I was trying my best to be present. Being in this cast on such an exciting and important day made me feel so held and supported, and I believe my fellow cast mates felt the same way. Before getting onstage, we warmed up and told each other: “I will hold you, I will not let you fall.” We affirmed to each other that we are enough.
It was so nice to feel seen by fellow black and brown actors who demand the presence of “enough-ness”; especially when we were at a school that lacks in diversity. I got on stage knowing: I was enough.
With the 10 year anniversary of Speak About It rapidly approaching, I have been thinking a lot about where we are headed and how far we have come.
What started as a small team of Baby Millennials having conversations about healthy relationships shaped by the New England liberal arts college experience has now become a team of seasoned educators with a wide range of backstories and identities. This past season marked our most diverse group of educators to date with folks spanning a range of physical, racial, cultural, economic, and educational backgrounds. We had enough diversity on staff this summer to sustain conversations amongst different affinity groups that were complex and rich; so much so that our educators asked us to host a second session.
This is huge.
By prioritizing diversity in our team and setting up a support network once we have brought in diversity, we are also prioritizing the affirmation of our educators' identity. We strive to avoid tokenization or fetishization of any particular group in our work. Instead we seek to represent a vastness of human experience, honor the uniqueness and humanity of a person, and explore how personal identity can affect our interpersonal relationships.
As we begin to achieve this within our organization, it becomes easier for us to bring more representation to the students with whom we work. For young folks to see themselves represented not just in the stories we share on stage, but also in the faces and bodies they see, it can be a truly affirming and empowering experience.
I do all the booking and logistics for each of our shows. The fact that I cast a show recently and did not even realize that I booked a full team of POC educators until we all showed up to the school day-of--that is a testament to how much we have grown as an organization. To me, our very intentional planning to include diversity has started to become a natural part of the organization.
I’m so thankful to have a job that, above all, cherishes the diversity of the human experience and seeks to celebrate the ways that identity and healthy relationships manifest across different social networks. I can’t wait to see what another decade will bring for this organization and want to send a resounding “thank you” to every single person that helped us get to this point."
Speak About It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with high schools and colleges to educate, entertain, and empower students to create positive change within their communities, advocate for and practice healthy relationship habits, and prevent sexual violence.
Copyright 2016 Speak About It, Inc. Website by Alexandra Valleau