When Franklin and Marshall College asked me to address the entire college join at their common hour I was terrified. Seriously, every time I thought about it I would get sick to my stomach. After I said yes, I avoided emails about the engagement. This started to shift one week before the event when I moved from terrified to merely scared. It helped when my husband Michael agreed to accompany me. But the biggest shift came when I heard a speaker the day before I gave my presentation. Theater artist and teacher Nilaja Sun Gordon concluded her remarks by having each person put their hands on their chest and repeat silently “I belong. I belong here.” Then she invited us to say it to the person sitting next to us.
That is when I saw once again how the default experience for me in predominantly white elite spaces is to feel like I don’t belong, to feel like I don’t belong here. It’s ironic that the piece Michael and I had decided to perform is called walking while black because it points to feeling like I don’t belong while walking on the street in a predominately white neighborhood in Connecticut. In that piece I say I feel fear.
I’m grateful to Nilaja Sun Gordon for reminding me that I belong, that I belong here.
Now I’m sharing that message with you. Below please check out the video of our presentation. You’ll see that Michael and I use art to create belonging, common vision, and connection with the divine.
We belong here.
(please fast forward to minute 10 to view performance or click here)