CSUSB: Creatives Speak Truth to Power
Black History Month
By Dianne Anderson
Performers are on a mission to transcend the spectral of this past year, the threats to democracy and the madness of a boiling political climate– all while creating content within pandemic isolation.
Prof. Kathryn Ervin said one way that “creatives” are not getting mired in the muck is by keeping perspectives, and helping each other move forward. They regularly check in to make sure their colleagues are okay, and they keep centered on the issues of the day by speaking truth to power.
“Several groups I work with are trying to be intentional about what issues we choose to tackle because there’s a lot. You can start in the middle and work your way to both ends, but you’ll burn out that way,” said Ervin, professor of the Theatre Department at Cal State University, San Bernardino.
Among the breakout of dynamic events and speakers in the coming weeks, social justice is framing the arts, performances, and conversations.
On February 5, the community is invited to Zoom ahead in celebration of “Black History Month 2021: The Legacy, Our Existence, My Identity Opening Ceremony.” That event runs from noon to 1:00 p.m. featuring President Tomás D. Morales and CSUSB alumna, and author and education advocate, Dr. Margaret Hill.
Coyote conversations are also planned for students to specifically gather around the latest happenings.
Starting February 6 through April 10, Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art presents the virtual exhibition “Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press.
On February 9, from noon-1:30 p.m. Daniel Walker leads the conversation on social justice with “Ending Racism in America. Also coming up February 12 starting at 6 p.m., a viewing of the critically acclaimed “I Am Not Your Negro,” re-awakens conversations by literary activist James Baldwin, that although decades old, still apply.
On February 10 and every Wednesday from 3:00-4:00 p.m., ongoing Conversations on Race and Policing hosted by Dr. Mary Texeira covers a wide range of points of view, including the history of policing, policing in rural versus urban areas, policing and jails, how policing differs in different counties.
“They’ve looked at the ways policing was carried out in the Black Lives Matter movement versus at the insurrection. Those are conversations worth following, they are archived, the library has them for access to previous events,” said Ervin, also president of the Black Faculty Staff and Student Association.
On February 17, from noon to 1:00 p.m., the Department of Theatre Arts presents excerpts “Baltimore” by Kirsten Greendige, following up with a dramaturgical, panel and discussion around the issues that the play raises. Set on a college campus, the play centers on a student victim of a hate crime, the investigation of who wrote the slur and why, and how it impacts the students.
Creative subject matter is heavy lately, but Ervin is encouraged by great performances emerging through the hard times. Shonda Rhimes has a massive Netflix hit with the Bridgerton series. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom gives a next-level performance by the late Chadwick Boseman in a play written by August Wilson, who is being honored with the 44th Black Heritage postal stamp.
Theatre and presenters are also getting more adept, even sophisticated, at Zoom.
Recently, she watched a benefit event at the Federal Theater in New York that hosted several performers, dancers, and speakers with top of the line material.
“Typically, I cringe a little when I think about watching Zoom because it’s hard to maintain audience attention, but it was as good as any academy awards that I’ve seen. Clearly they figured this out,” said Ervin, who is also a member of the 2021 Black History Month Committee.
Locally, she was very impressed with the Zoom prayer breakfast, an excellent production for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
She said teachers are also collaborating with multimedia and arts departments, making online productions that take advantage of the presentation format.
“People are using cell phones to make videos, not with sophisticated access to green screens and variable backgrounds, but just really being inventive about how they’re going to be seen,” she said.
She believes the key is sustaining artistic and theatrical momentum on social justice issues of the day by working one problem at a time, and carrying it forward.
And while everyone would love to be in the same room creatively, she said artists are adjusting. Many are finding their muse in spite of, and probably because of, the pandemic.
“They would say I don’t have time to put together my one-person show. Now you have time,” she said.
To see CSUSB Black History Month Events, see https://www.csusb.edu/bhm/events-calendar