We are a group of Dance students of Color at UMN-TC. For the past month, we have been anonymously installing a protest project in the Barbara Barker Center for Dance building. We have been putting up articles, quotes and pictures relating to racism and privilege, starting in the back stairwell, and spreading out over a number of days, to the second and main floors, as well as the classroom and studio on the third floor. We have been documenting the protest at our blog here: http://thisbyus.blogspot.com
Thus far, there has been no mention of this protest outside of the Theatre Arts and Dance department. A mandatory Dance Program town hall has been scheduled by the director of the dance program for this Friday the 13th, from 1:30pm to 3:30pm.
The tension surrounding this Town Hall, and the questions about our identities have been significantly raised since Monday night, when we posted our open letter to the dance program on the walls of the building. The full text of the letter can be found here: http://thisbyus.blogspot.com/2009/03/part-9-march-9-2009.html
The faculty have raised concerns about the safety of the building as though our actions indicated a threat more urgent than packaging tape on paintwork; as a result, we feel that the town hall will end up focused around the question of our identities, the validity of our methods and the tone of our protest, rather than around the issue of the failure of the University to dismantle institutional racism and educate about White privilege.
Given the deeply personal relationships and power dynamics between us and the students and faculty who will be at the Town Hall, we do not anticipate feeling particularly comfortable or safe during the event.
What we would be grateful for, more than anything else, would be the presence of other people like us--people who are concerned and interested in the University's commitment to safe spaces for racially diverse students.
We would love it if you could come to the Town Hall, if only to, by your bodily presence, help us feel less isolated and alone. We are sure that the discussion, however it proceeds, will be interesting to you, and we are pretty sure that just by being there you will help change the dynamics in the room.
We invite you to at the very least, come and see the white walls that we have claimed for ourselves, covered in the voices and images of people like us.
A map to the Barbara Barker Center for Dance can be found here: http://www1.umn.edu/twincities/maps/BarkerCtr/dance-map.html
Please forward this to other list-serves and to students and faculty whom you feel might find it of interest.