Last weekend, two black men kissed each other on the Loeb Mainstage for what was probably the first time ever, and a crowd that was seemingly more than predominantly black and brown completely lost it.
Last weekend, more black and brown people packed into that giant, intimidating theatre than have almost certainly ever been in that building at the same time ever before—at least more than I or anyone I talked to had ever seen in even the most “diverse” crowds.
Last weekend, I was, for the first time in my life, in a theatrical audience composed of more nonwhite people than white people, a room of people of color that fell in love with gay, bisexual, and genderqueer black characters while the characters fell in love with each other. None of the characters died.
I believe in magic.
Often, the white people in charge of producing and controlling the mediocre white theatre that dominates this campus and this world excuse the overwhelming whiteness of their productions by claiming that black people simply don’t come out to audition for theatre—and they certainly don’t come out to watch it.
“Black Magic” on the Loeb Mainstage sold hundreds and hundreds of tickets to black people to see this show. Many people saw it multiple times. Auditions were packed. This is what happens in response to art that prioritizes intentional representation. This is what happens when there are actually roles for black people in shows by black people: roles that aren’t token, roles besides the mammy or the wet nurse or the maid.
I don’t simply mean to brag, though I am immensely proud to have been a part of this. I simply mean to praise. Black people are magic. Black creativity is magic. Personally, I am leaving this production feeling more empowered than ever before about art-making on this campus. It is something of a revolutionary disenchantment—why did I ever feel the need to be accepted by powerful white publications, organizations, exclusive social spaces, when something so much more genuine, thoughtful, and creative exists? There’s just something so un-creative about the racist persistence of maintaining the status quo when it comes to the color—and gender, and sexuality—of art.
I owe this empowerment in large part to the leaders of Black C.A.S.T. who fought tooth and nail for space and recognition on this campus. And perhaps that is it—I shouldn’t really admonish mediocrity, as I cannot blame a people for never having to fight for their art. But I can celebrate the fight—I can celebrate the black women that have made Black C.A.S.T. what it is. I can celebrate the black queer folks who are making it what it will be. I can celebrate all the black, all the magic, and all the fight. We have earned all of it.
And isn’t this the purest joy? Praise God, for we have fought a holy fight, we have created something pleasing to our people and to our sweat and to our tears. For we have created something healing, a salve for the black and queer bodies around us and the black and queer bodies that no longer can be. Praise God, a bottle of pink moscato after a literally historic opening night and a buzzing and unspoken acknowledgment of a great and radiant something that has just passed between us, within us.
Praise God, for how far I have come. For how far my people have come. For how far I have to yet go. Praise God for a brow furrowed in Act I at the use of gender-neutral pronouns relaxing entirely by Act II as queer black love washes over it. For this has been a cleansing.
We aren’t just coming. We are already here. And we’re making art that you might not understand. Making art that you might not even make the time to come see—and it won’t matter. Because it’s not for you, anyway.
And today, for me, it’s not even really about that. It’s about giving thanks. It’s about opening myself up to magic.
Madison E. Johnson ’18 is a History and Literature concentrator in Pforzheimer House. Her column appears on alternate Wednesdays.