The Gift

Photo by Simone van der Koelen on Unsplash

“I ask that you try to be ‘un-sutured.’ If that term brings to mind a state of pain, open flesh, it is meant to do so.” – George Yancy, “Dear White America”

The Gift (working title) is a new play co-created and co-written by Tosin Olufolabi and Rachel Grossman. It follows two doctors initiating their first clinical trial of a cure for systemic racism in the United States.

The Gift is an audience integrated show that addresses expressions of racism on the personal, interpersonal, structural, and institutional levels.  It invites everyone into an imagined, futuristic “healing process.” Tosin and Rachel are creating The Gift for individuals confronting (or ready to confront) their own internalized racism—the parts of our ourselves we don’t question that directly correlate to parts of the larger system we also don’t question. It is the artists’ belief that until we begin undoing racism ourselves, in our own lives, nothing will change in society at large. Join us in this act of undoing.

PLAY DEVELOPMENT HISTORY

Our initial inspiration for The Gift was the New York Times op-ed “Dear White America” by philosopher Dr. George Yancy and his book Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly about Racism in America, analyzing the responses his article received.

On Christmas Day 2015,  “Dear White America” was published as “a gift to white America.” The article, framed as a letter, was a gift of time and space, inviting white Americans to acknowledge and confront their racism, as well as encourage white Americans to fight racism in themselves and the world around them. To engage in this activity, Yancy explains, requires people to open themselves up, exposing their vulnerabilities; it requires white people to “un-suture” themselves. It is a process of labor and sacrifice; it is a process that will not only be uncomfortable but painful.

A casual discussion between Tosin and Rachel of “Dear White America” and Backlash led us to asking each other some deep questions about the relationship of systemic racism to gifts, labor, sacrifice, reparations, and, ultimately, liberation.

What are gifts of labor? How can gifts require labor to accept? What’s the responsibility to accept a gift of labor? Or a gift that’s difficult or uncomfortable to accept, but “good for you”? What is a gift of opportunity? How might this relate to the healing process, or to cell therapy, organ transplants, regenerative medicine, etc.? 

What does undoing racism look like when it involves un-suturing? What would a country and its people healing from a large un-suturing look like? Where and how might we begin? How could this wound-creation also be a gift?

Without question, racism is in the very bones of the U.S. It’s a disease that seems impossible to eradicate, but what would it look like if we could wipe it out completely? What would it mean for all of us to be wiped clean from every lasting impact of systemic racism?

It might seem from the show’s basic premise–creating a “cure” for racism–that we’re attempting to simplify, gloss over, or make easy the eradication of systemic racism in the U.S. and the healing of its legacy of wounds. Not at all. This is where our conversations about apologies, reparations, and wound-healing have been most fertile. This is where the journey of creating the The Gift began.

CONTACT RACHEL for more INFORMATION ABOUT testings or workshops.

 

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