Performing Activism in Detroit

By: Julie Rosier

I am seeking to develop a performance activism project, where a group of people will tell their own stories on stage through a collage performance. This collective storytelling extravaganza will portray under-told personal stories about the intersections of identity, exploring relationships between categories such as class, race, gender, sexuality and the place where each of us is from, with the ultimate intention of spurring grassroots organizing and social change.

The group cycle will begin with a collective writing process, each person delving into past experiences to uncover significant stories from their personal, ancestral and communal pasts. This initial mining process will generate written material, which will eventually serve as the substance from which to form the structure of our performance piece. In addition to generating performance material, the group work will also have a parallel goal of providing a forum for personal introspection and group dialogue, while simultaneously growing the larger socio-cultural-political consciousness of all group members. Eventually the group will find a way to intertwine our stories into a performance piece, layering artistic expression, in the form of dialogue/spoken word, dance/experimental movement, sound textures/music, on top of each other to create a visceral full-body performance experience.

The goal will then be to show the work to the public, in community settings. Our real stories will hopefully have the potential to break down and ultimately transform false descriptions of reality created by mainstream media/hegemonic power structures to support stereotypes and biases that keep oppressed communities caged in the status quo and leads to debilitating victim mentalities. The process will therefore focus on documenting history from the ground up, instead of accepting the lopsided and misleading picture often recorded by historians who are often blinded by their own privilege.

Discovering and seeing one’s own story up on stage can have a tremendous empowering effect and fuel personal leadership development. Through self-confrontation, we begin to see our specific role in creating more expansive notions of humanity and realize that we must lead by example, becoming the change that we want to see. Building this group will be a practice in creating the beloved community. There is something magical that happens between people who are creating together and telling a larger collective story that can generate strong emotional bonds. It might be this the type of empowered community, with its new forms of leadership, that will able to move towards an American Revolution of Values that Martin Luther King called for during the last years of his life.


Please join in this performing activism conversation by leaving a comment. Specifically be in touch, if you know of similar projects that already exist or live in the Detroit area and are interested in joining such a group. If you know of someone who might be interested, please pass this information along.

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