Here’s one of my favorite ‘jokes’…A middle class or upper class white guy proclaims: ‘Racism is pretty much over. We don’t live in a racist society’. Ok, it’s not all that funny, but here’s my punch line: We white guys (and women) don’t get to make that call. Our viewpoint is limited by our privilege and our racial solipcism.
Now, I’m not about white liberal guilt and chestbeating and sackclothes and ashes. I do want to ascertain the truth, even though I believe I can honestly say that things are better now than they were back in the 50s and 60s when I grew up in Nashville. We don’t have apartheid now, so that has to be marked in the progress column.
Which gets me to the real point. Unless your name is Barnes (as in Bill Barnes or Halberstam or Siegenthaler, and a few others), your parents and grandparents (like mine) accepted the social rules the way they were. I was told that ‘nigger’ was a bad word and that I would be whipped if I said it, but I was also told that racial progress comes slooooooowly and it was not my place to question that.
If you don’t believe that the echoes and the ‘stamping’ from our parents and grandparents who either went along with this or were the victims of this don’t have an effect on our lives now, I’m pretty sure you lack perspective. Once again..forget the guilt shit..I’m talking about how being told you CAN’t sit here, you can’t pee here, you can’t drink water from THIS fountain and you can’t live here, affected twenty, thirty generations of people, some of whom are still alive RIGHT NOW.
You can’t tell me that the effect of going along with this doesn’t still resonate in our lives, even though those days appear to be historical relics of bygone society.
Which actually, honest-to-God, gets me to my real point. Ordinary Heroes is a play about what it was like to be black in Nashville in the 50s and 60s and what some people did..some of them are lost names..some of their names adorn buildings and streets and despite the name of the play, some of them were anything but ordinary.
This world-premiere theatrical work is based on Nashville’s pivotal role in our nation’s fight for civil rights in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Through drama, music, spoken word and multi-media, the play explores the stories of the lesser known contributors in the struggle that was born in Nashville – the individual foot soldiers who made up the masses that followed storied leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kelly Miller Smith, C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash, James Lawson, Bernard Lafayette and others. Based on interviews with living people who participated in the movement…
The play is going to be performed every weekend this month at the Fisk Chapel. Tickets are $15 and $18. The poster above has the other relevant information. Here’s a link to the website with the poster.
Final note: my alma mater, Lipscomb, is a co-backer of this play. I couldn’t be prouder, especially when I see something like this in the student newspaper:
Richard Goode, chair of history, along with Val Prill, dean of the college of arts and humanities, recognized sponsorship of the play as a step in the right direction for the university, given its historical lack of support for the movement. “When the movement was here, Lipscomb missed it,” Goode said. “You can’t change what happened in the past, but you can learn from it.”
Please go see this play. You WILL learn something.