I want to take the time to step off my track and address something briefly...In the history of modern humans I’m certain it has been written about before, but I write from the point of view of my many ridiculous firsts and I use the English word ridiculous with precision.
In my career in the U.K. I have found myself to be often the first Black woman to have led in that space, to have presented work on that particular stage, to have sat at that particular table of power, to be the first Chair of Sustained Theatre Yorkshire, Artistic Director of an RFO (back in the day NPO), Chair of Governors, or sitting on the Senior Management at Hull Truck Theatre. I could list many of my opportunities and experiences over the years in the Theatre Industry,long enough to remember when we first started calling ourselves an industry.
Now to return to that word ridiculous. It awaits anyone brave enough to step into a new space. To step into that space you often have to be over qualified to be taken half as seriously.
Those who have fought for the likes of you to be heard really meant for the opportunity to be either for themselves or for one of their own people they have backed. They struggle if they haven’t invested in you, taken the time to know you and assume a number of things about you and how you got into that room. They virtually join forces with those at the other end of the argument who don’t believe in the need for the likes of you or your representation in that position of power.
The assumptions made about you may be based on your seemingly lack of a gang or agenda even though you will have both. It’s virtually impossible to survive these rooms if you don’t have a plan or support.
This distrust and disrespect coming from both sides could leave you feeling unnerved, paranoid, undermined and isolated in the very spaces you need to be strong, centred and connected in. That terrible place of doubt can then build, with you questioning your own merit for being in the spaces you worked hard to get in and having the right to speak and share your experiences, knowledge and insight.
Let me say this, those of us who are underrepresented have little time for doubt, mistakes or failure as the imposter badge is gifted at the door. I’ve used the low expectations and initial invisibility of me to my advantage, only recently, because I’m not only stepping in but speaking out people are beginning to suss I might know some things...
If you see or hear of anyone who has stepped into the spaces, consider how you are supporting them, consider your aim when you throw that rock and smash that glass, you may well be aiming right at the very person you say you are protecting.
The institutions and public spaces deserve to be held to account and the lack of pace of change is a national disgrace. Whilst we are moving forward at all, let us take care of each other in this fight. I’m getting back on my track now, doing what I do every given day.