Broadway actor and director Schele Williams spoke out against racism in the Broadway community and the industry at large in a post on her Facebook page June 1.
Williams made her Broadway debut in the 2000 production of Disney’s Aida before making the transition into directing. She is set to direct the revival of Tim Rice and Elton John’s Aida, and is the current chairperson of Broadway Inspirational Voices and an 18-year member of the Tony-honored choir.
In light of the deaths of George Floyd (at the hands of police officers), Ahmad Aubery at the hands of two white men, and countless other race-fueled crimes, Williams released the following statement:
A true statement of recognition and solidarity has 3 components:
State the problem
Own your responsibility.
Express how you can be a part of the solution.
By the time Derek Chauvin put a knee to George Floyd’s neck he was already half dead.
We all are.
I have been gasping for breath in this business for 30 years. I have sat in rooms where my presence is your victory. Where my hard fought achievements are seen as a representation of your growth.
Black people have been code switching to your detriment. You have no idea. I apologize for not being brave enough to tell the truth but I will no longer sit in silence. I thought I was doing what I needed to do to preserve my career. But now I need to do everything I can to preserve my life.
I NEED TO BREATHE
Broadway is white.
Broadway values white over black.
We know this because we have eyes. We see who is producing, writing, composing, arranging, directing, choreographing, casting, designing, promoting, every word we say and every move we make.
We know this because we see your offices and your colleagues and have been to opening parties. We know that we are valued at the bottom not at the top. You know that too.
We see that you work hard to engage black audiences but lack engagement with your black employees who have worked with and for you for years.
We see your overwhelming passion for causes that affect you. And see it up close because we have always been standing with you. We know how to be there for you because we have taken the time to understand.
Black Lives Matter is not a statement, it is a plea for existence.
Broadway is white.
And white is not bad
But White is not Black
If you mean the words in your statements
Show us your values
Live up to your mission statements
Give us space to breathe and speak without fear of reprisal.
Look around the room and if you only see yourself replicated - CHANGE IT.
You have the power to do that.
We can’t undo the past. This is not a statement about litigating the past, it’s about living up to the words in your statements. You can’t support us if you don’t know what we need.
The whole industry is on pause trying to figure out how we are going to come back. Perhaps that conversation should be broader. How are we going to come back from THIS?
We will never be the same.
Black artists are gasping for air.
Broadway what are you going to do?