FLOURISH – Iris Lynne Sherman

We’re very excited about new FLOURISH themed episodes for this season’s podcast that will involve other important aspects of our lives besides dance.

 In our first FLOURISH episode, I welcome back my dear friend Iris Lynne Sherman, who gave us all some great advice from her long and varied career as a performer during a Season 1 episode.  This time we engage in some very real and honest talk about the social, racial and civil unrest that has been brought to the forefront by recent events in our country, and she gives her viewpoint as a person of color.  We’re both hoping that this will open up all kinds of dialogue and will inspire other people to have more conversations like this.  Here are the highlights:  

Different skin tones in dance:  “15 years ago, before any of this madness that is going on today, I would always write on my score sheet or speak into my microphone, ‘Please dye the tights of your children that have brown skin,’ and that is so important.  How can you put these children in colors that don’t match their legs, their bodies?”

What can we do to help?  “Please acknowledge the fact that there are people different from you in the world.”

 Be careful with your tone and your words:  “It is interesting how dear friends of mine too will say, as innocently as anyone, and these are friends, these are people that are true friends and would give the shirt off their back to me, ‘Oh my God, your hair is different?  What did you do today?’  as innocent as that.  Hair has actually been used against people to this day as a discrimination.  You’ve heard about schools cutting children’s dreadlocks off or braids because it was distracting.  So it could be something very innocent where someone does not think that they are being discriminatory or racist, but that is very racist.  It doesn’t always have to be blatant, it could be the innocent remarks of what someone’s eating eating for lunch in the cafeteria.  That person may not think anything racist or racial or anything of it, but it is derogatory and discriminating against another person’s normalcy.”

An explanation for the anger:  We do learn in these horrible situations of today,  police that shoot unarmed men and women for every case of that, you can bring up the case of an armed white person who was taken to lunch after they killed several people or actually handcuffed when they’ve killed several people and they are armed, they are visibly armed, they’ve maybe been in a car chase or some kind of foot chase and they have the weapon on them when they are caught and they are merely tackled and handcuffed and led to a vehicle and spoken to, but if it is an unarmed black child or man or woman, they are shot sometimes several times and so that riles people up. So the looting…looting is against the law, yes it’s horrible.  We’ve also learned that people from other areas have gone into different areas and they are looting and they are not always black and brown people.   This looting going on does not does not justify or condone anything else, not at all, it’s horrifying, but you do see the police, the armed armed militia  they’ve brought in, treat people differently and that is what riles up black and brown people through history.  It’s not just 2020. It didn’t start with George Floyd.  As few as maybe 30 years ago, 20 years ago, you couldn’t see it so immediately, and now people are angry of course, but they’ve always been angry.  They’ve been angry since 16 whatever when European people massacred native people.  They were prosperous in their way and someone came in and massacred entire tribes. There are tribes that don’t exist anymore, there are people that do not exist, because someone from an outside world, typically Caucasian, came in and slaughtered them and that is the history.”

“There are people that don’t know or understand or believe that these historic things happened.  They happened.  It is real.  It was real and if you are unaware of the history, then you’re going to perpetuate it.  You know slavery goes back to as long as there were people walking the planet, back to forever, so sure Europeans were not the first people to enslave someone else, but they were so horrifyingly cruel. Today it’s still happens in a manner of a fear of a black or brown person having something.  In the 50s and 60s and in the 40s when all a black or brown person wanted to do was sit at a counter and eat, and there were dogs brought in and hoses were brought in and police were brought in for someone wanting to eat.  Or prior to that in the 1800s when slaves were chased and captured and their foot was cut off or they were hung or they were beaten, it was because they wanted to be free, for that only reason they were captured and hung and killed for wanting to be away from this situation, of being trapped.  I want everyone to think about that. I want everyone to really think about that.  They didn’t have their feet cut off if they stayed, they weren’t whipped if they didn’t speak up, they were whipped or killed or beaten or dismembered because they wanted to be free.”

What can we do?  “Communication with your neighbors, your family, your friends, just communication. People are having difficult conversations that need to be had.  It is very difficult and unsettling to talk about race because it is uncomfortable, because the American history of race  is extremely unsettling, it is extremely difficult to talk about because in the United States many different races were treated horribly, generally by a caucasian. History is unsettling and the more education you have and the more communication and the more you’re willing to really listen and talk about it… you can’t fix anything until you listen to how someone else feels and don’t negate someone’s feelings.”

In light of the desire to keep this conversation going, we’ve started a book club!  Please join us in reading Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, recommended by Iris to help us all become more educated and mindful when it comes to issues dealing with race in our country.  We will   have Iris back on in a couple of months to discuss the book, and would love to hear your input!  You can reach out to melanie@larkspurdance.com, and you can also find us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Hope you join us!  

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