Back in September, I had lunch with two new friends and one old friend for the express purpose of discussing the celebration of diversity downtown Auburn specifically and in the world generally. Or, rather, we had come together to discuss the lack of celebration of diversity in said places. Keep in mind, these can be tough conversations to have for all parties involved, directly proportional, I’m convinced, to both their importance and necessity.
I have been programming at Auburn Public Theater for eleven years now and doing so, I thought until that day, with a vision toward the, well, celebration of diversity. But during our conversation, one of my new friends pointed out a real lack in my supposedly inclusive vision. For example, the choice of films selected for our Cinema Space to help celebrate Black History Month (and Women’s History Month, too, to paint with a slightly wider brush for a moment), had not simply been abysmal. That would have been a compliment. It was much worse than that. His observation was that our programming had been non-existent. And, of course, he was absolutely right.
To be clear, it’s not that I had carelessly forgotten about celebrating Black History Month (or Women’s History Month) at APT. That wasn’t it at all. The choice had not been a thoughtless one in the least; on the contrary, it had been completely conscious. And for good reason. Or so I thought. Until that exact moment, I had been viewing those two months of celebration through my very own private and personal lens. As we all view nearly everything, I’m sure, until we sit down to talk with people for the express purpose of widening our own private and personal lens.
In the past, what had come up for me surrounding the celebration of these two months specifically was a very strong feeling of not wanting to participate in their celebration in a traditional way. And here’s why (she rationalized to herself). I asked the following question so many times, over and over and over again in my very own private and personal head: If February is Black History Month and March is Women’s History Month, what does that make April through January? And the answer I continued to come up with year after year after year after year after year was so thoroughly unacceptable to me – the reality of the answer I’m talking about here – that I engaged in a kind of silent rebellion by simply choosing to opt out by not publicly celebrating either Black History Month or Women’s Month in the least. I chose, instead, to do my very best to celebrate everyone all the time, January through December, 2005 until the present moment. Period. End of sentence.
Two questions hung in the air for me that day. First, for all these years, had I simply been cutting off my nose to spite my face? And, second, had my silent acts of rebellion been so subtle (and so freaking silent!) that they had been missed altogether?
As I sat there at lunch, mulling over my new friend’s observations and, more importantly, their implications, I released a silent moan, a moan so ancient and timeless and exhausted and exasperated it might of sunk me completely had I not let it go. The moan was pure grief – for how the world was and how it had been and how it differed so greatly from what I thought it could be and how it should be. And, until that moment, it had also been keeping me from participating in Black and Women’s History Months in a meaningful way; it had been holding Auburn Public Theater back from fulfilling its mission. And that was no longer acceptable.
This month in the Cinema Space at Auburn Public Theater, we are showing four films for the express purpose of celebrating Black History Month. And, for good measure, we have the great honor of hosting the One And Only Comedian Cocoa Brown in our Main Stage on Saturday night. In March, we will show four films to help celebrate Women’s History Month. As for April through January, I will continue to do my best through programming at Auburn Public Theater to celebrate all of who we are every single day.
Thank you to my friends who sat patiently with me at lunch that day, for the exchange of ideas and observations and for the commitment to change and to growth you exemplify by living your extraordinary lives. Especially these days. Especially right this minute.
And thank you to you, the reader, for reading. And especially thank you for choosing to attend one of the carefully chosen films this month or next.