MetroFocus: June 11, 2020

More than 200 current and former staffers of Mayor de Blasio have published an open letter criticizing his handling of recent protests and defense of the NYPD- calling his actions the latest misstep in a series of failures to reform policing in communities of color. The letter states, “We could not remain silent while the Administration we served allows the NYPD to turn our City into occupied territory. Our former boss might not hear the cries for justice from Black and brown New Yorkers, but we do.” The police department has been denounced for its heavy-handed and at times violent approach to the demonstrations following the death of George Floyd. And while the mayor has recently embraced funding cuts for the city’s police force as well as calls for police reform, it is his initial response and reneging that is drawing ire. Will his current efforts satisfy frustrated New Yorkers, including members of his own administration? Or could the backlash be his political undoing?

It has been months since the lights on Broadway went out. But even during that period of darkness, Broadway has not been immune to the intense conversation concerning race that has arisen in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. The Broadway Advocacy Coalition has been at the forefront of that conversation, not just recently but since it was started in 2016. This week, more than 300 theater artists- black, Indigenous and people of color- joined that conversation – in a published a blistering statement addressed to “White American Theater” decrying racial injustice in their industry. “We See You, White American Theater” was published on the web and states “You are all a part of this house of cards built on white fragility and supremacy…and this is a house that will not stand.” Addressing “White American Theater,” the statement outlines the ways in which, it argues, artists of color are unjustly treated in the theater world and declares itself to be “in the legacy of August Wilson’s ‘The Ground on Which I Stand’,” an important 1996 speech by the playwright about race and the American stage. The statement repeatedly uses the phrase “we see you” to punctuate its observations about the theater world, and adds, “We have always seen you. And now you will see us.”

 

TRANSCRIPT

> THIS IS 'METROFOCUS' WITH RAFAEL PI ROMAN, JACK FORD, AND JENNA FLANAGAN.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

> GOOD EVENING AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS.'

I'M JENNA FLANAGAN.

FIRST IT WAS HIS RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC.

NOW MAYOR BILL De BLASIO IS FACING MOUNTING CRITICISM AND EACH CALLS FOR HIM TO RESIGN OVER HIS HANDLING OVER THE RECENT PROTESTS AND HIS DEFENSE OF THE NYPD.

THE POLICE DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN DENOUNCED FOR ITS HEAVY HANDED AND AT TIMES VIOLENT APPROACH TO THE DEMONSTRATORS FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD WHILE IN POLICE CUSTODY IN MINNEAPOLIS.

WHILE THE MAYOR HAS RECENTLY EMBRACED IDEAS LIKE FUNDING CUTS FOR THE NYPD AND EVEN CALLS FOR POLICE REFORM, WILL IT BE ENOUGH TO SATISFY SOME OF THE MAYOR'S FRUSTRATED CRITICS, LIKE HIS OWN CONSTITUENT NEW YORKERS, INCLUDING MEMBERS OF HIS OWN ADMINISTRATION?

AND WHAT IMPACT COULD THESE PROTESTS ULTIMATELY HAVE ON HIS OVERALL LEGACY AS MAYOR?

FOR ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS AND MORE, I'M JOINED BY CITY AND STATE SENIOR REPORTER JEFF COLTON WHO WROTE ABOUT THE MAYOR'S FUTURE ENTITLED 'DID BILL De BLASIO'S POLITICAL CAREER JUST COME TO AN END?'

WELCOME BACK, JEFF.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME ON DURING THIS DIFFICULT TIME.

OF COURSE.

I WAS WONDER SFG YOU COULD TAKE US BACK A LITTLE BIT.

AS THE PROTEST OF GEORGE FLOYD'S DEATH THAT HAPPENED IN MINNEAPOLIS BEGAN TO REALLY RAMP UP IN NEW YORK CITY, MAYOR BILL De BLASIO SAID SOMETHING THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE FELT WAS INCREDIBLY OUTRAGEOUS IN DEFENSE OF THE NYPD.

I'M WONDERING IF YOU COULD TAKE THE AUDIENCE BACK TO WHAT IT WAS HE SAID THAT GOT SO MUCH OUTRAGE AND CONTROVERSY?

SURE, THE MOMENT THAT IT PROBABLY REALLY CHANGED FOR BILL De BLASIO WAS A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO ON A SATURDAY NIGHT.

THERE WERE TWO NYPD POLICE CRUISERS, SUVs, THAT WERE BEING SURROUNDED BY PROTESTERS AND THE COPS DROVE FORWARD INTO THE PROTESTERS WITH THEIR CARS, SPREADING PEOPLE, KNOCKING THEM ON THE GROUND, THAT SORT OF THING.

YOU KNOW, EVERYBODY SEEN THE VIDEO.

IT WAS SHOCKING TO WATCH THESE POLICE CRUISERS DRIVE FORWARD INTO PEOPLE, WHEN IT APPEARED THAT THEY COULD HAVE VERY SAFELY BACKED UP OUT OF THE SITUATION.

De BLASIO DIDN'T SEE IT THAT WAY.

HE SAID IT WAS -- HE BLAMED THE PROTESTERS.

HE SAID IT WAS INAPPROPRIATE FOR THE PROTESTERS TO SURROUND A POLICE VEHICLE AND THREATEN POLICE OFFICERS.

AND HE SAID, AND I QUOTE, IF A POLICE OFFICER IS IN THAT SITUATION, THEY HAVE TO GET OUT OF THAT SITUATION.

THIS WAS SEEN AS NOT JUST SURPRISING RHETORIC, BUT A TOTAL BETRAYAL OF De BLASIO'S PLATFORM THAT HE RAN ON SIX YEARS AGO IN 2016, AND HIS PLATFORM THAT HE HAS TRIED TO HOLD HIMSELF UP AS, AS A VOICE OF THE MARGINALIZED, AS A TRUE PROGRESSIVE.

SO THAT MOMENT, ALTHOUGH HE DID SLIGHTLY WALK BACK HIS COMMENTS THE NEXT DAY --

I WAS GOING TO ASK ABOUT HIS ATTEMPT TO DO THAT.

DO YOU THINK THAT HELPED OR HURT HIM, AT LEAST POLITICALLY?

IT'S HARD TO SAY POLITICALLY, BECAUSE AT THIS MOMENT, NOBODY IS HAPPY WITH BILL De BLASIO, IT SEEMS.

IT SEEMS A LOT OF THE SUPPORTERS OF THE -- THE DIE HARD SUPPORTERS OF THE NYPD AND MAYBE THE MORE CONSERVATIVE RESIDENTS OF NEW YORK DON'T THINK THAT De BLASIO IS DOING ENOUGH.

AND MORE OF THE PROGRESSIVE RESIDENTS, THOSE THAT SEE AN ISSUE WITH THE NYPD'S CONDUCT, THEY THINK THAT De BLASIO IS MUCH TOO FAR ON THE SIDE OF THE POLICE AND DEFENDING THEM RATHER THAN THESE PROTESTS AGAINST SYSTEMIC RACISM AND AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY, WHICH WE'VE SEEN SO MUCH CAUGHT ON TAPE IN THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS.

THERE HAS BEEN THIS CALL FROM, AGAIN, BOTH SIDES, IF YOU WILL, FOR MAYOR De BLASIO TO RESIGN.

EVEN WE UNDERSTAND THAT GOVERNOR CUOMO WAS SUGGESTING THAT HE MIGHT HAVE THE POWER TO REPLACE THE MAYOR.

AT LEAST AS YOU SEE THINGS UNFOLDING, WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD OF MAYOR De BLASIO RESIGNING AND SECOND OF ALL, IS IT POSSIBLE FOR ANYBODY ELSE TO REMOVE HIM FROM OFFICE?

SURE.

IF YOU GO ON TWITTER NOW, ANYTHING De BLASIO TWEETS, EVEN IF IT'S TOTALLY IRRELEVANT, TALKING ABOUT THE WEATHER FOR THE DAY, THE FIRST 100 RESPONSES ARE, De BLASIO RESIGN.

THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THIS CITY THAT ARE CALLING FOR HIS RESIGNATION.

AND IT'S FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM.

SOME OF THE MOST PROMINENT CALLING FOR HIM ARE THE LEADER OF BLACK LIVES MATTER GREATER CITY NEW YORK, AND A REPUBLICAN ON THE CITY COUNCIL FROM QUEENS.

BOTH ARE UNHAPPY.

THAT SAID, De BLASIO IS NOT GOING TO RESIGN.

AS I WROTE IN THE ARTICLE, HE'S DEVOTED HIS LIFE TO GET TO THIS POSITION FOR TOO LONG HE'S WORKED TOO HARD TO JUST GIVE IT UP.

AND ALSO HE REALLY DOESN'T THINK HE'S DONE ANYTHING WRONG.

SO De BLASIO IS NOT GOING TO RESIGN.

IT'S ALSO A HARD PROCESS TO RESIGN.

AS GOVERNOR CUOMO KIND OF WAS SPECULATING A WEEK OR TWO AGO, HE WAS SAYING WELL, IF THE MAYOR NEEDS TO GET OUT OF OFFICE, THE GOVERNOR HAS TO CHARGE HIM WITH A CRIME TO GET HIM OUT.

THAT'S ALSO NOT GOING TO HAPPEN, AS MUCH AS De BLASIO AND CUOMO HAVE BUTTED HEADS OVER THE LAST SEVEN ENDLESS YEARS.

CUOMO WOULD NEVER TAKE IT AS FAR AS TO ACTUALLY UNSEAT De BLASIO.

AT LEAST NOT UNDER THE CURRENT CIRCUMSTANCES AND GIVEN THE PRESENT MOMENT.

SO De BLASIO IS NOT GOING TO RESIGN, ALTHOUGH HIS POLITICAL POWER, I MEAN, ALTHOUGH ALREADY --

I WAS GOING TO SAY, IT DOES BEG THAT QUESTION.

I'M NOT SURE IF IT WAS YOU WHO SAID IT, BUT I HAVE READ THAT THE COMING MAYOR OF NEW YORK IS A DEAD END POLITICAL JOB, AND DO WE KNOW -- I MEAN, HE TRIED RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.

THAT DIDN'T WORK OUT THE WAY HE WANTED IT TO.

DO WE KNOW WHERE THIS LEAVES HIM WITH HIS CAREER IN POLITICS?

I WILL SAY, SO WHEN WE POSTED THIS ARTICLE, YOU KNOW, IS THIS THE END FOR BILL De BLASIO?

THE MOST COMMON RESPONSE WAS, IT'S ALREADY BEEN THE END FOR BILL De BLASIO.

HE HAS NO POLITICAL CAPITAL.

I BELIEVE WHEN HE FINISHED HIS PRESIDENTIAL RUN IN 2019, WHEN HE DROPPED OUT OF THE RACE, 'THE NEW YORK POST' WROTE A MOCK OBITUARY FOR De BLASIO'S POLITICAL CAPITAL.

EVERYONE IS LOOKING AHEAD WHO WILL BE THE NEXT MAYOR COME JANUARY, 2022.

THAT ASIDE, YEAH, De BLASIO, HE'S -- HE'S IF A VERY TOUGH POSITION.

AND WHAT HIS FUTURE MAY HOLD OBVIOUSLY IT'S NOT GOING TO WORK OUT BEING PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

HIS OTHER PLAN MIGHT HAVE BEEN JOINING A BERNIE SANDERS ADMINISTRATION.

THAT'S ALSO NOT GOING TO WORK OUT.

SO I LOOKED AT A PREVIOUS MAYOR, DAVID DINKINS, WHO WAS WAS VOTED OUT OF OFFICE AFTER JUST ONE TERM.

YOU KNOW, VERY CONTROVERSIAL TENURE IN MANY WAYS, WHICH HAS, I THINK, BEEN LOOKED AT UNDER A BETTER LIGHT AS THE YEARS HAVE COME ON.

BUT AT THE MOMENT, A VERY CONTROVERSIAL FIGURE.

HE ENDED UP HOSTING A RADIO SHOW AND BECOMING A PROFESSOR AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY.

I THINK De BLASIO WOULD BE VERY LUCKY TO HAVE THAT SAME SITUATION AFTER 2021, TEACHING A CLASS.

I DON'T KNOW IF THE MORE RADICAL LEFTIST STUDENTS WOULD BE HAPPY TO BE TAUGHT BY BILL De BLASIO.

BUT I THINK THAT HE WOULD MAKE A GOOD PROFESSOR.

THIS CERTAINLY ISN'T A POSITION WHERE YOU'RE JUST NEVER HEARD FROM AGAIN.

BUT I ALSO WANTED TO ASK ABOUT THE ROLE THE CRITICISM COMING FROM WITHIN HIS OWN ADMINISTRATION MIGHT ALSO BE PLAYING WITH THE DECISIONS THAT HE'S MAKING AS OF RIGHT NOW.

THAT SEEMS TO BE SOMEWHAT UNPRECEDENTED TO HAVE SO MANY PEOPLE WITHIN HIS ORGANIZATION COMING OUT AND PUBLICLY CRITICIZING HIS LEADERSHIP.

YEAH, ABSOLUTELY.

AND THE CRITICISM COMING FROM WITHIN CITY HALL IS MULTIFACETED.

THERE'S BEEN TWO OPEN LETTERS FROM STAFFERS.

ONE OF THEM WAS FROM A COALITION OF WOMEN OF COLOR IN De BLASIO'S ADMINISTRATION THAT ARE SAYING THEY FELT MARGINALIZED AND THEY FELT LIKE THEY'RE NOT BEING HEARD.

I THINK THIS IS A CONVERSATION THAT'S HAPPENING AT WORKPLACES ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

BUT IT'S NOTABLE COMING FROM WITHIN CITY HALL AND WITHIN A MAYOR'S ADMINISTRATION, SOMEBODY WHO HAS REALLY ELEVATED HIMSELF AS A PROGRESSIVE.

AND WHOSE TOP ADVISER AND WIFE IS A BLACK WOMAN.

THERE'S THAT LETTER.

AND THEN ANOTHER LETTER, OPEN LETTER FROM De BLASIO STAFFERS, SIGNED BY HUNDREDS OF STAFFERS OF ALL RACES, GENDERS, AGES, THAT ARE VERY DISAPPOINTED IN De BLASIO'S LEADERSHIP.

AND THEY SPECIFICALLY SAY THEY WERE HORRIFIED TO HEAR HIS DEFENSE OF THE NYPD.

AND THEY HAVE MADE A LIST OF DEMANDS, INCLUDING DEFUNDING THE NYPD BY $1 BILLION IN THE NEXT BUDGET.

IT'S CURRENTLY A $6 BILLION BUDGET, SO A $1 BILLION CUT IS VERY SUBSTANTIAL.

THAT AND OTHER DEMANDS.

YES, THIS IS CRITICISM COMING FROM WITHIN De BLASIO'S MOST LOYAL ALLIES.

AND IT REALLY DOES SEEM UNPRECEDENTED.

IN FACT, ONE OF HIS TOP ADVISERS ALISON HIRSH IS LEAVING THE MAYOR'S OFFICE TO WORK FOR THE SCHOOL'S CHANCELLOR.

BUT THE REPORTING IS THAT SHE'S LEAVING BECAUSE SHE DIDN'T WANT TO DEFEND THE MAYOR ANYMORE.

SHE SAID I CAN'T DO THIS AND NEEDED TO STEP AWAY.

SO JUST A VERY BAD MOMENT FOR De BLASIO WHEN EVEN HIS STAFFERS AND MOST LOYAL ADVISERS HERE ARE ABANDONING HIM.

WELL, GIVEN THE FACT THAT YOU JUST SAID THAT THE MAYOR DOESN'T HAVE ANY MORE POLITICAL CAPITAL, I'M WONDERING IF THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN REPLACING HIM, ARE THEY ABLE TO PICK UP AND BUILD ON ANY OF HIS LOST CAPITAL?

FOR EXAMPLE, I WOULD SAY JEMANI WILLIAMS MADE SOME HEADLINES.

HIS CAREER HAS LED UP TO TO MOMENT.

HE'S ALWAYS BEEN A STRONG ADVOCATE AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY AND FOR REFORM.

THE MAN HAS BEEN ARRESTED COUNTLESS TIMES ON CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE KINDS OF CHARGES.

SO HIS PROFILE IS VERY HIGH RIGHT NOW.

AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT WHETHER HE SHOULD RUN FOR MAYOR NEXT YEAR.

HE'S SAID HE HAS NO INTEREST IN RUNNING FOR MAYOR.

OF COURSE, WE HEARD THAT COUNTLESS TIMES FROM PEOPLE THAT THEN END UP RUNNING FOR MAYOR.

SO WE'LL KEEP AN EYE ON JEMANI WILLIAMS.

AND THE OTHER CANDIDATES THAT HAVE DECLINED, SCOTT STRINGER, ERIC ADAMS, THOSE ARE THE HIGH PROFILE ONES.

THEY HAVE ALL TAKEN THIS MOMENT TO HARSHLY CRITICIZE De BLASIO, TO SAY THAT THERE SHOULD NOT BE A CURFEW, THAT THE NYPD'S BUDGET SHOULD BE CUT MORE HARSHLY.

A VARIETY OF JUST VERY TARGETED ATTACKS ON De BLASIO THAT THEY'RE BASICALLY ALL THE CANDIDATES THAT ARE LOOKING TO BE MAYOR COME 2022 ARE BASICALLY SAYING THEY WILL HANDLE POLICE AND POLICE BRUTALITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY VERY DIFFERENT THAN THE CURRENT MAYOR.

JEFF, BEFORE WE LET YOU GO AND WE ARE COMING UP ON THE END OF OUR TIME, BUT SPEAKING OF CHANGING POLICING AND WHO'S IN CHARGE, THERE IS SOME RUMOR THAT PERHAPS COMMISSIONER SHEA MIGHT STEP DOWN.

WHAT ARE YOU HEARING ABOUT THAT?

IS THERE ANYTHING TO THAT?

OR IS THAT WISHFUL THINKING ON THE PART OF SOME?

I WILL SAY IT WAS A STRESSFUL NIGHT FOR MYSELF AND MANY OTHER REPORTERS AND I'M SURE FOR THE POLICE COMMISSIONER HIMSELF.

BECAUSE THE RUMORS WERE FLYING THAT THE COMMISSIONER WAS GOING TO RESIGN, AND POSSIBLY THE NUMBER TWO, TERRY MONAHAN WAS ALSO GOING TO RESIGN.

IT'S NOW A FEW DAYS LATER AND De BLASIO DENIED THERE'S ANY EMINENT RESIGNATIONS.

BUT IT WOULDN'T SURPRISE ANYBODY TO FIND OUT THAT THERE IS SERIOUS TENSION BETWEEN THE NYPD AND BETWEEN CITY HALL AND THE NYPD.

LIKE I SAID, NOBODY IS HAPPY WITH De BLASIO RIGHT NOW, AND THAT INCLUDES MANY POLICE OFFICERS AND MOST LIKELY POLICE LEADERSHIP.

WE'LL SEE WHAT HAPPENS.

AS OF NOW, NYPD COMMISSIONER SHEA IS STILL IN CHARGE.

WELL, LISTEN, JEFF COLTON, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US AGAIN AND GIVING US BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT'S HAPPENING AT CITY HALL AND ESPECIALLY THE MAYOR'S RESPONSE TO THE RECENT UNREST.

THANK YOU.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

ABSOLUTELY.

I'M JACK FORD.

IT HAS BEEN MONTHS SINCE THE LIGHTS ON BROADWAY WENT OUT.

BUT EVEN DURING THAT PERIOD OF TIME, THAT PERIOD OF DARKNESS, BROADWAY HAS NOT BEEN IMMUNE TO THE INTENSE CONVERSATION CONCERNING RACE.

THAT HAS ARISEN IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD AT THE HANDS OF MINNEAPOLIS POLICE OFFICERS.

THE BROADWAY ADVOCACY COALITION IS A GROUP THAT'S BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF THAT CONVERSATION.

NOT JUST RECENTLY BUT SINCE IT WAS BEGUN BACK IN 2016.

AND WE'RE PLEASED TO HAVE JOINING US NOW BRITTON SMITH, AN ACCLAIMED ACTOR AND ONE OF THE FOUNDERS AND THE PRESIDENT OF THE BROADWAY ADVOCACY COALITION.

THANKS FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU, JACK.

THANKS FOR HAVING ME.

A LOT OF ISSUES TO TALK ABOUT.

BUT LET'S START WITH THE COALITION.

THIS IS NOT NEW TO THE CONVERSATION.

BEGAN BACK IN 2016, YOU WERE A CO-FOUNDER.

WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS OF ITS CREATION?

YEAH.

A FEW OF US WERE IN A SHOW CALLED 'SHUFFLE ALONG,' AND IN 2016, THERE WAS A BIG OPPORTUNITY TO BE ON THE STAGE WITH SOME OF MY BLACK HEROES.

DR. McDONALD, BILLY PORTER, JUST HUGE NAMES THAT I'VE ALWAYS LOOKED UP TO.

SO IT WAS A MOMENT WHERE I FELT LIKE MAN, I REALLY HAVE SOME SKIN IN THE GAME, YOU KNOW, I'M REALLY A PART OF SOMETHING GREAT.

AND MY BLACKNESS IS CELEBRATED HERE.

NOW, AS YOU KNOW, MOST OF OUR AUDIENCE MEMBERS ON BROADWAY ARE ALL WHITE.

SO WE HAVE TO DO THE JOB OF BEING EXCELLENT BEHIND STAGE, ON STAGE, AND SERVE OURSELVES AND A PREDOMINANTLY WHITE AUDIENCE, AND THEN LEAVE THE STAGE, AND THEN BE FORCED TO UNDERSTAND THAT POLICE BRUTALITY TREATS YOU VERY DIFFERENTLY THAN THE HAND CLAPS OF THOSE PEOPLE WATCHING YOU PERFORM.

SO AFTER ERIC GARNER'S DEATH, OUR ENTIRE CAST AND CREW WERE STRUGGLING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S OUR ROLE BEYOND PERFORMING TO STATE IN THE MOVEMENT?

AND AT THE TIME, IT WAS BLACK LIVES MATTER, BLACK LIVES MATTER EVERYWHERE.

SO WE WERE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT'S OUR ROLE BEYOND PERFORMING?

AND WE CREATED THIS EVENT CALLED BROADWAY FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER.

NOW, IN THE BROADWAY WORLD, THERE ARE MANY ORGANIZATIONS THAT SUPPORT THE LBGTQ COMMUNITY.

WE SUPPORT THE HOMELESS YOUTH.

MANY INITIATIVES.

BUT THERE IS NO INITIATIVE THAT I CAN THINK OF SINCE 2016, THAT WAS FOR ANTI-RACISM, POLICE BRUTALITY, ISSUES OF MASS INCARCERATION.

SO WE PRODUCED THIS EVENT CALLED BROADWAY FOR BLACK LIVES MATTER AND DECIDED THAT IT WAS TIME FOR US TO STOP JUST RAISING MONEY, BUT TIME TO USE OUR RAGE AND OUR CONFUSION TO RAISE OUR OWN AWARENESS OF WHAT ARE THOSE POLICIES IN PLACE THAT ALLOW THAT POLICE OFFICER TO DO WHAT WE ALL SAW HIM DO AND STILL GET OFF?

WHAT ARE THOSE POLICIES IN PLACE THAT KEEP US FROM ALL THE LIBERTIES THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO HAVE.

SO WE STARTED THIS ORGANIZATION WITH COLUMBIA LAW SCHOOL THAT HAS BEEN AN AMAZING RESOURCE FOR US TO USE, TO UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF LAW AND WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU BRING LAWYERS AND ARTISTS INTO A ROOM WITH PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN, YOU KNOW, LIKE PREVIOUSLY INCARCERATED AND WHAT'S THAT RELATIONSHIP?

SO WE HAVE THIS METHODOLOGY THAT INVOLVES ALL OF THE STAKE HOLDERS AROUND MASS INCARCERATION TO GET IN A ROOM.

WHERE DOES CHANGE HAPPEN IN MASS INCARCERATION?

WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?

WHAT IDEAS ARE PROVEN IN THE POLICIES?

AND WE TRY TO CHALLENGE THAT.

LET ME ASK YOU, I'M GOING TO ASK YOU MORE ABOUT WHAT YOUR ORGANIZATION IS DOING, BUT LET ME START WITH SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN A HEADLINE THIS WEEK THAT.

IS A PUBLIC LETTER PUBLISHED OVER THE SIGNATURES OF SOME 300 PLUS THEATER ARTISTS.

YES.

AND THE TITLE OF THAT LETTER WAS, 'WE SEE YOU, WHITE AMERICAN THEATER.'

RIGHT, RIGHT.

AND I -- IN READING THE LETTER AND LOOKING AT SOME PEOPLE REPORTING, I SAW ONE INDICATION THAT SAYS IT.

THIS LETTER IS MORE THAN JUST A CRITICISM.

IT WAS DESCRIBED AS SOMETHING OF A SCALDING INDICTMENT.

RIGHT.

IS THAT A FAIR CHARACTERIZATION, AND THEN WHAT IS THIS LETTER ALL ABOUT?

I CAN TELL YOU WHAT I FELT WHEN I READ IT.

IT WAS READ TO ME, I SIGNED THE LETTER WITH THE PEOPLE YOU CAN SEE ON THE FIRST THREE PAGES OF SIGNATURES.

KY TELL YOU WHEN I READ IT, IT FELT LIKE LASHES TO BE OPENED UP.

I HEARD WORDS THAT MADE ME REMEMBER, AHH, YES, THAT'S HAPPENED TO ME.

YES, WE DO HAVE TO BE SILENT IN THESE PLACES.

AHH, YES, EVEN MY PARENTS TAUGHT ME HOW TO MOVE AROUND, TO EVEN BE AROUND WHERE I AM NOW.

EVEN AS A BROADWAY ARTIST, I THOUGHT I WAS AT THE TOP.

BUT STILL AT THE TOP, WE HAVE TO MOVE AROUND SEVERAL GATES OF WHITE SUPREMACY.

AND THAT'S IN CASTING, IN THE REHEARSAL ROOM, THAT'S IN OUR WHOLE MAKEUP.

SO I THINK WHAT THAT LETTER DOES IS, IT CHALLENGES BROADWAY, WHICH IS A WHITE INSTITUTION.

IT'S CALLED THE GREAT WHITE WAY, NOT JUST FOR JOKES.

BUT THOSE PEOPLE WHO ARE AT THE TOP WHO ARE THE HOUSE OWNERS, TWO ARE THE MAIN PRODUCERS, WHO ARE IN OUR UNION HEADS, THEY'RE ALL WHITE.

SO WE DEMAND THEM TO SEE THE TRUTH AND ALSO MAKE ROOM FOR US AT THE TOP.

AND I THINK WE'LL SEE CHANGE WHEN THE MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE TO RACISM ARE A PART OF THOSE CONVERSATIONS.

AND UNTIL THEN, WE'RE GOING SEE THE CYCLE OF OPPRESSION.

ONCE AGAIN, WE'RE TALKING TO BRITTON SMITH, PRESIDENT OF THE BROADWAY ADVOCACY COALITION HERE.

LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THIS.

I WOULD SUSPECT, AND I DON'T HAVE ANY DATA TO BACK THIS UP.

BUT IF YOU ASKED A CASUAL BROADWAY OBSERVER ABOUT BROADWAY AND HOW IT'S PROGRESSED IN TERMS OF EMBRACING AND INTEGRATING ACTORS OF COLOR, I WOULD SUSPECT THE ANSWER IS BROADWAY IS IN THE FOREFRONT, I SEE PEOPLE OF COLOR UP ON THE STAGE.

WOULD YOU AGREE WITH ME FIRST OF ALL THAT'S PROBABLY THE RESPONSE YOU WOULD GET FROM SOME CASUAL OBSERVERS?

FROM SOME CASUAL OBSERVERS, YES, SURE.

IS THAT STRONGER EVIDENCE OF WHAT THE DEPTH OF THE PROBLEM IS?

YEAH, BECAUSE OF FOLKS WHO ARE WATCHING IN CASUALLY ARE NOT PARTICIPATING IN IT.

I THINK IT'S BLACK PEOPLE WHO ARE PARTICIPATING IN IT, THEY'LL HAVE A MORE GROUNDED UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT'S MISSED.

BECAUSE BROADWAY HAS JUST BEEN A STAGE.

LIKE BROADWAY IS THE AUDITION ROOM.

BROADWAY IS WAY MORE THAN JUST WHAT YOU SEE ON STAGE.

AND I THINK IF FOLKS START TO TAKE TIME TO REALLY LOOK INTO ALL THE ROOMS THAT CREATE BROADWAY, YOU'LL SEE THAT THERE'S NOT DIVERSITY THERE AT ALL.

IN THIS LETTER, IT'S CRITICAL OF THOSE WHO PROGRAM, THOSE WHO CREATE THE PROGRAMMING.

CRITICAL OF THE LABOR UNIONS, AND HOW THEY HAVE FAILED TO EMBRACE PEOPLE OF COLOR.

CRITICAL OF THE MEDIA.

TALKING ABOUT THE MEDIA, THE QUOTE WAS A RACIST, CRITICAL CULTURE IN THE MEDIA.

AND I'M -- I WANT TO ASK FOR SOME SPECIFICS TO HELP US UNDERSTAND THIS.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS -- A QUOTE WAS, OUR NATION'S HISTORY OF RACISM HAS TRICKLED INTO OUR INDUSTRY IN WAYS THAT PREVENT ACTORS OF COLOR THE LIBERTIES THAT WHITE ACTORS ARE ACCUSTOMED TO.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

I WAS RECENTLY IN A SHOW CALLED 'BE MORE CHILL.'

IT WAS WONDERFUL, SO EXCITING.

IT WAS A GREAT PRODUCTION.

YOU SAW IT?

FABULOUS, MAN.

THAT WAS THE FIRST TIME THAT I WAS IN A DRESSING ROOM OFF BROADWAY WITH MOSTLY -- LIKE I WAS THE ONLY BLACK MAN IN THE ROOM.

AND THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE WHO WERE WHITE, ASIAN.

AND THEY HAD A DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT THEY DESERVED TO BE PAID.

AND I STARTED TO LISTEN TO THEM ABOUT WHAT THEY DESERVED.

AND THEY DID DESERVE THAT.

AND THEN I WENT HOME AND I THOUGHT WHY DON'T I KNOW I DESERVE TO GET PAID THAT MUCH A WEEK?

I'M THE SAME LEVEL OF PRINCIPAL, I'M ALSO A LEAD HERE.

WHAT HAVE I BEEN TAUGHT AT HOME, IN SCHOOL, AND IN THE INDUSTRY THAT TELLS ME THAT I DON'T DESERVE TO GET PAID AS MUCH?

SO I CALLED MY AGENT AND I SAID HEY, SO AND SO IS GETTING PAID THIS, AND THEY DIDN'T KNOW I WAS LISTENING.

I AM THE SAME LEVEL OF ROLE THERE.

I WANT TO GET PAID THAT, AS WELL.

MY AGENTS AT THE TIME, WHO ARE NOT MY AGENTS NOW, WERE LIKE, THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY, ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO ASK FOR THAT?

ABSOLUTELY.

I MADE THEM ADVOCATE FOR EQUALITY.

I WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PAID THAT IF I DIDN'T LISTEN IN TO THE THOUGHTS OF WHITE PRIVILEGE.

I LOVE MY CASTMATES, BUT THERE'S SOMETHING IN WHITENESS THAT ALLOWS YOU TO KNOW WHAT YOU DESERVE.

I HAVE TO REMEMBER WHAT I DESERVE, BECAUSE THERE HAVE BEEN SO MANY THINGS THAT TAUGHT ME I DON'T DESERVE.

THAT'S JUST ONE EXAMPLE THAT I CAN SHARE IS THAT, YOU KNOW -- YOU HAVE TO REMIND YOURSELF THAT YOU'RE VALUABLE SEVERAL TIMES.

REGARDLESS WHAT COLOR YOUR SKIN COLOR.

RIGHT.

LET ME ASK YOU WHAT THE COALITION IS DOING.

THERE'S A SERIES OF FOUR OF THEM THAT YOU'RE DOING.

GIVE ME A QUICK SENSE OF WHAT THEY'RE ABOUT AND WHAT YOU'RE HOPING TO GET.

YEAH.

SO TODAY MARKS OUR FIRST DAY OF A THREE-DAY FORUM.

DAY ONE IS ABOUT GATHERING THE BLACK INDUSTRY MEMBERS EXCLUSIVELY.

THERE'S NEVER BEEN A SPACE I CAN THINK OF WHEN WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO BREATHE AND MOURN WHAT'S HAPPENING ON THE OUTSIDE AND THE INSIDE OF OUR INDUSTRY TOGETHER.

WE WANT TO HAVE PEOPLE TELL US HOW TO DEAL WITH ANXIETY AND PAIN GOING ON.

IT'S A SPACE OF HEALING, JUST FOR US.

I THINK THAT PEOPLE MAY THINK THAT'S NOT INCLUSIVE.

THAT'S NOT FAIR.

NO, NO, YOU'RE WHITE, YOU NEED TO HEAR FROM THE EXPERIENCES OF PEOPLE GOING THROUGH HISTORIES AND GENERATIONS OF RACISM IN OUR INDUSTRY.

SO DAY ONE IS ABOUT US AND HOW WE HEAL TOGETHER.

DAY TWO IS ABOUT CHANNELLING OUR WHITE ALLIES, FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES, INSTITUTIONS TO TAKE A BACK SEAT AND LISTEN TO VARIOUS DIFFERENT STORIES.

IT'S ALL CURE RATED.

IT'S NOT THE SPACE TO ANTAGONIZE AND POINT SHAME AND CALL OUT NAMES.

IT'S A POINT TO LET PEOPLE KNOW, THIS IS HOW I'VE HAD TO MOVE AROUND WHITE SUPREMACY TO EXIST IN THE SPACE THAT I AM.

AND THERE ARE TWO PEOPLE I DON'T WANT TO NAME RIGHT NOW, WHO ARE BIG LEADERS IN OUR INDUSTRY, MAJOR NAMES.

THEY HAVE TONYS, THEY ARE BECOME STARS.

AND EVEN THEY DEAL WITH RACISM AT THE TOP.

SO IT'S TO CHALLENGE THE IDEA THERE IS NO EXCEPTION TO THE RULE.

THERE'S NO EXCEPTION TO THE RULE.

AND I THINK THAT THIS FORUM SHOULD BE DONE PROBABLY IN MANY INSTITUTIONS.

I BET DOCTORS AT THE TOP OF THEIR GAME FEEL THE SAME WAY THAT OUR TOP OF THE GAME INDIVIDUALS FEEL.

AND DAY THREE IS ABOUT IDENTIFYING WHAT IT WOULD LOOK LIKE IF EVERYBODY WAS HELD ACCOUNTABLE.

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE, AND WHAT WE DREAM OF.

I THINK THERE ARE 5,000 PEOPLE A PART OF DAYS TWO AND THREE.

SO IT'S AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY FOR THE TRUTH TO BE TOLD TO THE PEOPLE WHO NEED TO MAKE ROOM FOR US.

IT'S AMAZING.

I'M EXCITED.

THIS ALL BEGAN IN TEN DAYS.

THIS IDEA IS TEN DAYS OLD.

THE ORGANIZATION IS NOT NEW TO THIS CONVERSATION.

AND FOR ANYBODY OUT THERE WHO WANTS TO HELP, THEY CAN GO TO BROADWAY ADVOCACY COALITION.ORG.

I WOULD LIKE TO TALK WITH YOU AGAIN DOWN THE ROAD.

HISTORY HAS TOLD US IT TAKES TRAGEDY, CRISIS, EVEN MARTYRDOM FOR US TO MAKE SIGNIFICANT CHANGE IN OUR CULTURE.

I APPLAUD WHAT YOU AND THE ORGANIZATION ARE DOING AND I HOPE WE CAN TALK AGAIN DOWN THE ROAD AND THERE WILL BE SOME PROGRESS MADE.

THANK YOU ONCE AGAIN FOR SPENDING SOME TIME WITH US.

GOOD LUCK WITH EVERYTHING YOU'RE DOING AND YOU BE WELL.

THANK YOU, JACK.

TAKE CARE.

'METROFOCUS' IS MADE POSSIBLE BY JAMES AND MERRYL TISCH, SUE AND EDGAR WACHENHEIM III, THE SYLVIA A. AND SIMON B. POYTA PROGRAMING ENDOWMENT TO FIGHT ANTI-SEMITISM.

BERNARD AND IRENE SCHWARTZ, ROSALIND P. WALTER, BARBARA HOPE ZUCKERBERG, AND BY --

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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