On Sept. 17, I attended OSF’s Green Show. I had anticipated a dance performance by “Samba Heart & Soul.” Instead I was yelled at and scolded, or so it felt.
A poet from Dayton, Ohio, was the spokesperson and, unlike Maya Angelou, she had a militant presence that was akin to extremism, which is no surprise. As technology moves so quickly as tweets, twitter and messaging are the new norm, the culture’s behavior and response is without a pause.
One could feasibly imagine recognizing a racist problem in the community because it is mostly white, but with discernment and a discussion that would align with a nonviolent reaction, perhaps a resolution could have been attained. I am not surprised that her anger was elevated to project out to her audience her outrage. Recent events in our town have grown exponentially out of fear and a lack of discernment. “He said, she said” seems beneath the character of this town.
With that being said, the actor from OSF who is playing the Lion in "The Wiz" this year and who was verbally accosted by a mentally deranged person was in this performance. I get that she is pissed, but we here in this small town are not the enemy. How we lack diversity was not a grand plan by the city planners. Most of us come from metropolitan areas, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and so forth. We thrived in cities that were diversified, but our choice of a lifestyle here in Ashland was due in part to give us pause; the mountains, hills, rivers, parks and nature at her best stimulate mindfulness against the world at large.
We cannot erase history. Nor would we want to, although after this verbal, albeit poetic, attack, perhaps we have it backwards. It has always been believed that to know history is to avoid repeating it. Perhaps we should know it, recognize its fallibility, and then move forward and forget it. When a group of performers who know that there are young children in the audience yell out mother------- and sh-- and proceed to stomp upon the ancestry of their lineage as if the harsh words and movement could resurrect their ancestry back from the dead and erase history, a line has been crossed.
The incident with the Shakespeare Books & Antiques shop and OSF is an example of lack of discernment. This community is affected by the collective consciousness of black lives and police who have demonstrated poor judgment throughout the country. Thanks to all the media attention.
The Southern Poverty Law Center says tolerance can be taught, but do the folks in Ashland need this lesson? We are educated. We are open-minded and we are extremely tolerant. But I question the intelligence in the community that night as folks blindly sat there and applauded this verbal bullying as I held my hands on the ears of a stranger’s young child.
For in this show there was a blatant attack on a community. Of course there were tourists, too, so the applause is questionable. We can’t take back what was said to the actor mentioned above, but the Ashland community is not to blame.
Now for the naysayers, I come from the inner city in the Bronx of New York City. My first best friend was a black girl named Sheila. I remember in grade school, she invited me to a party in her apartment in the projects and I was the only white girl at that party. I danced with young black boys and her parents treated me as if I were one of their own. To this day, I dance without the stigma of white versus black. Not everyone is so lucky.
Extremism feeds into the collective behavior of racism. Let’s not call out the injustices. We cannot make the history of slavery go away, but we can ascend to the highest level of our souls to be what our ancestors would have wanted for us. As President Obama and First Lady Michelle say, “When they go low, we go high.” This Green Show went low.
— Elizabeth Perle lives in Ashland.