School of Drama promotes kindness and unity in response to recent acts of hate
On Sept. 1, the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama held the event Stand Up to Hate, an inclusivity forum intended to gather students and faculty together to discuss both recent events and systemic problems related to race, xenophobia, and hostility.
In recent years, Carnegie Mellon has become an increasingly proactive and driven institution in addressing social justice issues, spanning disciplines and generations. The School of Drama has been no exception to this initiative — for good reason. A quick survey of the room revealed the wide range of races, all concerned and eager to raise the discussion and contribute to the conversation on the changing landscape of American values and beliefs. Some students were seen lined up nearby the podium, ready to present their own personal takes on the conversation.
Peter Cooke, the Head of the School of Drama, was first at the podium and kicked off the event with a welcome statement and opening remarks. Quickly moving to address the Charlottesville protest that occurred a few weeks ago, he emphasized the university’s stance on the Unite the Right group that led the rally. Cooke stated, “I want you to feel very confidently that the management in this university reject utterly what’s happened in Charlottesville.” The message is clear, and his speech condemning the rally played into a larger statement of grievances of the actions of hate that have occurred around the world. He offered condolences to individuals affected by the terrorist attack in Barcelona, and sympathy for those affected by Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that tore through South Texas and left at least 70 dead.
But the event was not intended to solely grieve for the recent tragedies. The agenda quickly moved forward for action items, as Cooke asked, “What can we do?” He brought forward the Diversity and Inclusion Committee, a group within the School of Drama which has been “a proactive force” and will be “helpful across a whole lot of platforms.” Its initiatives are to: continue efforts to diversify across department levels, diversify within the season, and keep improving health and safety of the community as a whole.
Extending the expressed commitment of diversity, Cooke repeated that, “there’s not a decision made that does not think about the inclusion and diversity” of that decision. He continued to state that increasing representation in every area is of constant concern. His speech ended with an encouraging message to, “be good to people. Do something every day that is good.”
Talented students showcased their personal concerns about these subjects through their creative channels. Timiki Salinas, a senior majoring in musical theater, performed a reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “On the Pulse of Morning.” Javier Spivey, a junior majoring in Music Theater, performed his own ironically-titled composition of the spoken word piece/song, “Thank you Letter to the KKK.” Patrick O’Shea, a first-year Drama major, talked about a mural on the Community Chalkboard in Charlottesville, Virginia he completed after the attack on the Charlottesville counter-rally.
Every student had a powerful reason as to why they chose their piece to perform. We spoke briefly with Spivey, whose performance received a standing ovation and resounding acclaim after the event. His thoughtfulness about his heritage runs all the way to his social media handles, which are all under his penname LH Gonzalez which pays homage to the Afro and Latino parts of his family, particularly to Leonard Henry Spivey, his grandfather, and his mother, whose maiden name is Gonzalez. When asked about what someone should do to change the tide of hate, Spivey stressed encouraging everyone, when they hear any form of racial aggression, to speak up right then and there. Even if it is a small circumstance that doesn’t sound quite right, and even though you can’t realistically affect the nation, anyone who speaks up can do something that affects their municipal community. Lastly, he asks people to be brave and to not get scared. “If Trump can be president, you can raise your voice.”