2020

Embers of a Phoenix

by Carlos Brumfield

If someone would’ve told me five years ago that we would be in the middle of a racial awakening and a climate catastrophe, I would've probably believe you because I think we have been trending in that direction for a very long time in this country. However, if you had told me that we would be dealing with all of that in the middle of a pandemic, I would’ve told we were too capable to let it get this out of control. 

I was wrong. 

Here we are knee deep in a pandemic that is forcing everyone to stop and watch what is going on in our country. We’re exposed, and it can be exhausting talking about the same issues over and over again with no real sight of a solution. I feel like there was nothing more we could do about the racial injustice experienced by Black and Brown people in this country but try and keep trying for more years. On top of that, our planet is trying to kill us. I mean, regardless of how you feel about everything else, this issue is bigger than anything.  How much evidence must be presented before we understand that we have to get the climate under control? People have been protesting these things for years, and it is tiring. 

Decade after decade of screaming, protesting, rioting, crying, and failed policy can wear any soul down. I was ready to give in, but I am choosing to look at what the people in my generation and generation Z are doing, and what they are saying — how they are communicating with each other and with older generations. For me, that’s where the inspiration and hope lie. The stories that don’t make it on Facebook and popular news channels. We must talk about and for me,  that is the best way to make it through this and that’s to experience it together. Although things are bad, I feel like we are on the verge of something fantastic in this country, but we have to get over this very large very steep hill first. I want to be part of telling the history of these moments we are in. It almost feels like a call to action from history. 

Like most people, when the Covid-19 hit the states, I thought we would handle it as swiftly and effectively as we dealt with the Ebola virus. I assumed like on 9/11 that the country would be scared enough of this virus to fight a common threat. I was wrong. In the beginning I was frustrated, and I would post my opinion about the whole situation on Facebook. I was surprised by how many people were willing to give in to conspiracy theory and ignore the science. However, one thing I figured out about social media is that it is illusion. It is not a representation of how the majority of the country is actually feeling. It’s not a reflection of how my immediate circle is feeling either. The amount of energy and time it cost me to get on Facebook and argue with people I don’t know was unnecessary. I would find myself literally arguing for hours with no real purpose other than to win the argument.  So, I stopped talking about it as much on social media because it can sucked me in way too much. Instead I decided to have conversations with coworkers, family members, friends, and anyone else I had a relationship with. Through those conversations, I was able to get different perspectives without feeling like I was slipping into in an episode of the Twilight Zone or arguing to win a point in a game of “Gotcha.” Although I have surrounded myself with people who share my views on this pandemic and

how it effects people of color differently than others, I have also run into people who don’t have the same views. Those people are interesting to me because a lot of the time they aren’t just being contrary just to rile everyone up. They genuinely don’t understand what it’s like. I try to meet them there in their understanding because the last thing I want to do is force my perspective on someone else. Instead, I invite those with opposing views to have conversations because it is important to have a full picture of our shared reality. Somewhere in the course of the conversation, I try to find what we both can agree on and explore what we don’t agree and why more productively. Although the pandemic is a grim situation, I am optimistic about the unintended effects it has exposed because now we are almost forced to talk about it openly now.

 

Since the pandemic hit its stride, we have been seeing just how disproportionate the effects are for black and brown communities. For the longest, black people have been speaking up about the incredibly dehumanizing and oppressive culture of this country. It has always been an issue for us. We can go back to any time in history in this country and see examples of how we were treated like second class citizens. From policing to housing to education to wealth building.  This isn’t a new cry for us but It’s refreshing to see that we are not the only ones crying out anymore. Although things seem to be out of control, I am optimistic that this will cause some real change in our country. I just want to be part of this continued conversation especially with younger people.  

 

As I mentioned before, it was really hard for me to have a conversation with people I disagreed with without becoming defensive because a lot of what is going on socially is my personal life. It’s my brothers and my sisters lives. I sometime forget that there are other stories happening at the same time. I work with an older white man who is extremely conservative. He isn’t a terrible person, although he can be controversial. I understand that a lot of his perspective is motivated by fear and being so caught up in his own reality that he ignores, forget, or isn’t aware that most people live in their own reality shaped by their environment. I can’t be mad at someone who doesn’t know what they don’t know. The only thing I can offer is a different viewpoint and just hope that we can converse effectively. Although it is still very tiring, I would like to think that our conversations would offer insight to our very different worlds and experiences in this country  and figure out  what we can do to make it better for all of us. 

 

As an actor and playwright, I think it is my responsibility to be a part of these moments in history. As artist, we are responsible for telling the nuanced stories of the everyday person and ourselves and how we are handling everything. We are living in a time of great chaos and of a great awakening. So I get through this by living in it, speaking about it out loud, by getting a little uncomfortable and by being encouraged to have the conversations with people who want to listen. I know that this time will pass but in the meantime we must create empathy between each other. I don’t think it is possible to create good art if you are unable to empathize. It is the one of the most important characteristics that an artist can exhibit. I have my own personal feelings about the way things are going in this country but I think it is important that my feelings are not the only experiences that are reflected. I feel we are rebuilding our identity as Americans to make a better country and environment for the generations after us because that is the responsibility of us all. Don’t give up. Keep pushing forward and press the issue because we have children to raise.   

Follow Carlos on Instagram @cboogie88

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