10 December 2014

Living Your Life Defending Your Non-ABW Status

Day 1:

In two different incidents less than 2 weeks apart, I have discovered that regardless of how polite you are or how professional you may appear, as an Women of Color, if you dare disagree with someone or state an opinion you are labeled as “Angry.”

Incident #1: Taking my students to a venue where they were to practice for an upcoming performance. In this venue the security is high and everyone must be accounted for at all time. We even have an escort to take us from one place to the next. Thank god, my students are well-behaved. We get to our holding area and the students are placing their belongings in seats, but a guard is staring at them and shaking his head. I ignored him, because I do not do public scenes (anymore) and none of my students noticed. A few minutes later he begins talking to one of the kids, saying “This is section 127.” The child looks at me and the rest of the kids began to laughs. Not understanding why he addressed a child or phrase it in that way, I said “Yes, Thank you,” and went back to giving my dancers directions. He throw us arms up in the air and shook his head again. Once again, he said “This is section 127.” Still lost, so I replied “I’m sorry, what are you telling me.” He finally gets to the point and says we are not supposed to be sitting here. Why couldn’t he have said that before is beyond me, but to my right is a sign with the school’s name on it. All teachers know how much of an annoyance it is to have to move kids when they are quiet. I pointed to the sign and told him someone brought us down here. He repeated the same line “This is section 127.” I replied “I understand, I just wanted you to know why we were in the wrong section.” He got upset and told me not to yell at him, that he was only doing his job. Now, the kids are interested because they believe it’s about to go down. I do not show my behind at any school event, nor will I show poor behavior in front of my students. I immediately replied, “You misunderstood me, no one is trying to argue with you, I was only explaining why we were in the wrong section.” I think this man was part parrot become he kept on repeating the same phrases. Now this one was “I just work here.” I apologized again and told my students to get up and move. There was nothing more for me here.

Incident # 2: Another performance, another trip with my students, another person telling me “I just work here.” Right off the bat I could tell that there was something wrong with my sound tech, but I have over 50 kids and my company , I wasn’t about to waste time trying to figure it out. I brought over two CDs to have the levels check. The 1st thing he wanted to do was lecture me on production. I informed him there are two separate group, which is why there are two separate CDs. This is quite common to have multiple music/CDs for more than one group. I immediately shut that down and tended to my kids. At 5:10 pm I want back over to the sound tech, hoping he had actually checked the sound, but of course he hadn’t. As soon as the show started there was an issues with the sound. Of course there was! Somehow I was blamed for this and it just had to be my CD. Once again, I politely told the man that if it was the CD there would be an error message and no sound would come out. I told him there was either an issues with the mains or the connections. So, we tried another performer’s CD and theirs wasn’t working either. Finally after 30 minutes the music was fixed and it was a connection problem. I discovered, being helpful is actually being argumentative.

Women are known for being emotional and running away with their feelings, but when you are African American, it takes on a whole different meaning. African American women cannot express indifferent or disagree with the way things are, for the fear of being labeled “Angry.” I find myself being overly pleasant to not be classified as an ABW (Angry Black Women). I feel like I am walking on egg shells daily to not cross that line. To not have others looking at me, like I am a loose cannon. To not be Angry, but mostly I feel like I am not being myself. I do have a temper, which I am learning to keep at bay. I am loud, my whole family is. However, at the end of the day, no one wants to be described as Angry. I wish people see how hard I work at being friendly. I know the world doesn’t know I am putting on a different face for them , nor care, but it would be nice to hear “Thanks RED” on not cussing someone out today. Even a thumbs up would be nice. No?…ok………

About The Author

Erika "Big Red" Stowall is a choreographer and performer from Detroit, MI. Currently she serves as Artistic Director of Big Red Danke productions, and teaches at various locations in the Metro-Detroit area. Her current dance companies are Big Red Wall and Red Pumps.