Revolution Glossary: Unpacking Allyship

Green Rev GlossThe Revolution Glossary is our new series where we dive deeper into words which are part of the conversations about justice happening around all of us. The goal of this series is to provide a resource for people who want to expand their vocabulary around social justice topics, or people who want extra context and perspective on their word choices. Our hope is that this series can spark some important discussions, and help people jump into those discussions with enthusiasm.

We’re diving right into our Revolution Glossary with the word “ally,” a word which often lands differently than  intended. Broadly, allyship is when a person with a dominant identity acts to counteract the oppression which gives power to their group and takes it away from a marginalized group. The first social justice related instances of the term ally probably referred to straight people in movements for LGBTQIA+ rights in the 70s. But in recent years ally has become a widely used and debated term.

Within the idea of “allyship” lies a bigger question. What role should people with dominant identities play in movements for the liberation of oppressed people? Oppressed people often disagree. In the present day activists have called for white people looking to take action on racial justice to redistribute their resources,  use their bodies to protect the lives of Black people, and  intentionally redirect focus towards the voices of Black people and other people of color. If a white person does all of these things, can they then claim the title of ally?

The obvious danger here is that regardless of the changes any individual person makes, racial inequity and colonialism aren’t math problems that can be solved by a simple transaction. A person with a dominant identity can go to great lengths to untangle themselves from one part of their privilege while still benefiting from it in other ways. And can a donation — or attending a protest — undo every microaggression, biased decision, or moment of privilege that person has experienced? Obviously not, but it’s easy to see how a privileged person might want to think so. There’s no way to make up for being racist or benefiting from racism, but when activists for racial justice put out calls like the ones above, they often report being inundated by white people who are looking for absolution. For that reason, many activists and advocates have decided that the term ally and the concept of allyship do more harm than good, and that they can accept help from people with dominant identities without giving them a specific title.

Other terms have arisen as potential replacements. “Co-struggling” emphasizes that everyone who organizes against oppression has to commit to a constant personal struggle, and that charity and pity are unhelpful lenses. “Accomplices” emphasizes that people with dominant identities should try to support an effort rather than lead it, but people in criminalized communities have sometimes pushed back against appropriating justice system language. And other people are fine to stick with the term ally, not necessarily as a title any person can claim, but as a goal to strive toward.

Whether or not you, dear reader, should call yourself an ally probably depends on context, and whether the people you’re talking to feel okay with you using that language. Either way, knowing  a bit about the term’s history and controversy will help you use it better in conversation, and understand the debate around it.

 

Shattered Globe Theatre’s ‘Hannah and Martin’ is a Winner-Take-All Battle of Wits

Debate plays are danger zones where the ploy to frame the “very fine people on both sides” can quickly fall flat and leave the audience with nothing else but the same arguments they are already bombarded with daily. Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of Hannah and Martin successfully presents a debate focused script without turning into trench warfare. The remarkable text by playwright Kate Fodor stands on its own two pillars of cerebral philosophizing and visceral desire. In his 24th collaboration with Shattered Globe Theatre, director Louis Contey leans on these two pillars to guide a willing audience into the gray area of a life or death debate. Continue reading “Shattered Globe Theatre’s ‘Hannah and Martin’ is a Winner-Take-All Battle of Wits”

‘Cardboard Piano’ A Romance That Reckons With Historical Pain

In Hansol Jung’s Cardboard Piano, produced by Timeline Theatre and directed by Mechelle Moe, we find ourselves trapped in a church without a redeemer. Two teen girls, one the daughter of an American missionary, the other a Ugandan, exchange vows by cande light on the eve of the millennium. Chris (Kearstyn Keller) is the typical preacher’s kid, stubborn and questioning of her identity in relation to her father’s, a bit naïve with the heart of a runaway. Adiel (Adia Alli) a young Ugandan girl is a persuasive quick thinker, harboring compassion and calm, all necessary traits for a young girl surviving in a war-torn country.  Together, their chemistry and love are infectious, but this proves dangerous in a country collapsed by colonialism, mind and body. In Uganda, homosexuality is not only a sin, but illegal. Continue reading “‘Cardboard Piano’ A Romance That Reckons With Historical Pain”

Brett Neveu’s ‘To Catch a Fish’ Dramatizes a Real Life Tale of Entrapment

Brett Neveu’s world premiere TO CATCH A FISH, developed at Timeline and directed by Ron OJ Parson, takes on the morally repugnant practice of police entrapment. Neveu takes us to the peaceful Milwaukee neighborhood of Riverwest where in 2012 officers from the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau set-up a phony shop with an aim to lure the community into selling guns by offering to purchase them at triple their street value. This perverse incentive created a gun market where there wasn’t one. People started buying guns at local stores to turn around and sell them to the ATF, even going so far as to dredge up antiques and family heirlooms to cash in on the offer. Later, community members entrapped by this scheme were rounded up to face criminal charges. Continue reading “Brett Neveu’s ‘To Catch a Fish’ Dramatizes a Real Life Tale of Entrapment”

Key Reviews: ‘The Heavens Are Hung in Black’ and ‘Two Mile Hollow’

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program brings students to various productions around Chicago, teaching them about arts criticism as they try their hand at writing reviews. The opinions of the students are their own; we workshop the pieces in seminar every other week, and then they edit their reviews before publication. This week we are sharing their second round of reviews on The Heavens Are Hung in Black at Shattered Globe Theatre, which closed Oct. 21st, and Two Mile Hollow at First Floor Theater which closed Nov 4thWorkshopped and Edited by co-facilitators Regina Victor and Oliver Sava. 

Continue reading “Key Reviews: ‘The Heavens Are Hung in Black’ and ‘Two Mile Hollow’”

Rhapsody in Blue Eyeliner: Taylor Mac’s ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music’

Jerome Joseph Gentes

Author’s note: I attended two different “versions” of Taylor Mac’s A 24-Decade History of Popular Music at The Curran on Sunday September 24 and at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall on Wednesday September 27. This review compares the two audience experiences of “Chapter IV” and “Abridged Version” respectively.

What makes a piece of theatre a phenomenon? What turns it from instance to event? Driven by conscious and subconscious hope that their art goes the analog equivalent of viral, artists create art everyday from fine to pop, traditional to technological. Artistic organizations do this, as do artist teams. Most of it never becomes an event. Theatre that does may do so incidentally, and in cases like the Broadway productions of ANGELS IN AMERICA, RENT and HAMILTON, deliberately. Continue reading “Rhapsody in Blue Eyeliner: Taylor Mac’s ‘A 24-Decade History of Popular Music’”