The campus and city community gathered in the Fine Arts Building last Saturday, Nov. 8, for a performance in response to the enduring violence against Black lives in the United States entitled Power: From The Mouths of The Occupied.
Seven Kalamazoo College Students and one student from Western Michigan University fused together historical and personal narratives. These stories combined live performance, projected video, spoken word, and a collection of statewide personal reflections.
The K students who returned to K after a trip to Ferguson, Mo. were confronted with the tension between communication of the experience’s emotional weight and the constant expectation to serve solutions to end racism.
To reconcile these demands, the students made a serious commitment to the time, discipline, and energy it took to craft a presentation. The performance served as a catalyst for meaningful reflection and healing for the community. In the process they paid tribute to the long, heart-rending list of African American unlawful deaths: Michael Brown, Renisha Mcbride, Aiyanna Jones, Islan Nettles, Trayvon Martin.
And the list continues.
The piece sings of Nina Simone’s chant, “Young, gifted and black…” and they shared, sometimes through tears, their own personal stories of how state sanctioned violence has impacted their lives and their communities.
“I got so tired of being comfortable,” said Sarah Braggs ‘17 at the end of the performance.
She continued, “It was so sad when Mike Brown died,” and in a hushed tone admitted, “but thank God it’s not me. Thank God it’s not here. Thank God I don’t have to walk outside and see memorials. And I realized but wait, that’s not good. I shouldn’t be this comfortable when it’s stuff that’s happening to people just like me.”
For centuries, African Americans have been remaking the world, giving testament to the power of hope, courage, and resilience. And the inspired generosity of Arcus Center’s visiting fellow Patrisse Cullors who directed and co-produced Power: From the Mouths of the Occupied with Damon Turner carved the space for the black students at Kalamazoo College to honor fully the many stories ridden with tension, pain, and resilience.
Power: From the Mouths of the Occupied is a reclamation of identity. It is an honest treasure to remember the persistence of racism and understand how every person has the power to share their stories and overcome decades of white supremacist terror.
They are following up with an encore performance on Nov. 12 in the Arcus Center at 7 p.m.