Photo by Taylor Seaberg, mural at Cup Foods created by Xena Goldman, Cadex Herrera, and Greta McLain with help from Niko Alexander and Pablo Hernandez.
The Twin Cities, the country, and many parts of the world have been convulsed by the murder of George Floyd by white Minneapolis Police officers last week. While it has been surreal to witness the first congregations of people, after so many months of sheltering in place, take the form of massive protests against racist police violence, it is not surprising. For even in the past several months there have been a handful of high profile cases of black men and women extrajudicially killed by police (or ex-police), in Georgia (Ahmaud Arbery, 21), Louisville (Breonna Taylor, 26) and most recently - only a couple miles from Pangea World Theater’s studio- George Floyd (46). There are many more victims of white supremacy whose names and stories we never hear, including many tens of thousands who have been condemned to perish from Covid 19 due to their poverty, their criminal record, race, or immigration status. At Pangea World Theater, we express our grief and outrage at the lives destroyed by all forms of discrimination. We stand in solidarity with George Floyd’s family, with the Black Lives Matter movement and with all the protesters calling for long overdue systemic change.
Being very close to the epicenter of the violence, we watched with horror as many of our beloved businesses along our cherished Lake Street corridor, Northside Minneapolis and St. Paul were damaged or destroyed. Our hearts broke when we heard of spaces that we collaborate with and consider friends of Pangea - such as Gandhi Mahal, Migizi, El Nuevo Rodeo - had burnt down. We are as firm in our commitment to those community members today as ever, and we will be there to help them pick up the pieces and rebuild. And we commit not only to rebuilding Lake Street and Minneapolis, but to reimagining them. It is impossible to return to the status quo of “before”, and we likewise reject a future which deepens the already glaring inequities and violence around us and has more in common with fascism than democracy. Rather, we step forward with hope and determination towards a future made of mutual reciprocity, of joy and equity, peace and justice. The answers to our needs can be found within our own hearts and our own communities. As the great June Jordan told us, “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”
At Pangea World Theater, we believe in decolonizing practices. That starts with centering the voices from our black, brown, immigrant, queer and indigenous circles, all of whom have centuries of experience with the violence of settler colonialism, patriarchy, racism and war. Until we create alternate visions to replace the current system of white supremacy, however, George Floyd’s death will unfortunately not be the last. We commit, therefore, to strengthen our practices and to continue to make fearless, determined and transformative art that ensures his life will not have been lost in vain.
The novelist and essayist Arundhati Roy recently wrote of the Coronavirus: “Nothing could be worse than a return to normality…[This pandemic] is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly...ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it”. The revolutionary moment that has arisen in the wake of the killing of George Floyd is yet another portal. And we believe that art, and specifically theater, has a role to play in this unshackling of our imaginations towards a new world; one that reclaims the commons and embodies solidarity, equity, liberation and the creation of sacred and collaborative spaces. We are ready to stand with all of you and fight for this, onstage and in our communities.
From the Pangea World Theater Staff and Board