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The Minority America Created by: Shandria Blackmon

ABSTRACT

This material will explore the concept of the word minority and if it has surpassed it’s meaning of being just a number. I will talk about how minorities took on a representation of viewing people who were non-white less than but not just by digits. In doing this a couple of interviews from the cast of Who Shot La Miguelito will share their experience and what made them feel like a minority. We will discover the word minority takes on a very negative, and demeaning role for those who are placed in this category. We will locate this truth through the actual events during the performance that dealt with gentrification and victimization of this culture in La Miguelito. The negative representation of this word became more vivid for the characters in the play because of the way they were treated. Their culture was being wiped away through murder and gentrification and in fact, made them feel like they were being erased.

How has America constructed restraints informed who belonged and was a minority through victimization and gentrification shown in La Miguelito?
Mural by Twick ICP | Poster by Ben Dillon. Below Photo of a Blank Slate. Photo from Nick Nielsen from Company Medium

Minority America

Imagine you were blindfolded and didn’t know anything about where you were. There was no sound, sight, smell, and nothing you can place, it’s blank. Now take off the blindfold and take a moment to breathe in a deep breath and then slowly let it out and begin to notice what is around you. The place feels new, it’s warm, there is green all around, people, music, and food. There is no threat to you. The land, people, sound, and taste welcomes you into this new space. Where do you think you are? You think you're in peace, in love, unity and constant navigation into this new area with other humans. There is no name for this place, it’s just home to all who wish to call it home in their way. In the same way, I took you on a journey to a place that I said has no name is the same way a group of people traveled to an unknown land and told you its name was America. Now can you see how if America can be started as a thought whether stolen or not, structures of minority groups can be as well? The show La Miguelito captures the liminal phases of the main character coming to terms with her legacy with concepts through death, religion, and art. Although it seems like the play is allowing minority groups to take up space, be seen that they are more than just the minority, I will argue that they are not dismantling the existent thought of being a minority at all.

It's not disbelief that is dangerous to our society; it is belief.- George Bernard Shaw
A photo of the United States showing the flag in the background with we the people written across. :Michigan Center for Civic Education

I don't even believe there is such a thing as a minority I believe it was a thought that began to manifest from groups of individuals who took on the superior role. To even go as far as to say there is no such thing as white, it's all false illusions. They are mindsets and things that have been spoken over and over and started as a make-believe that took on the role of make-belief and is now the current reality. To extend this thought further, that there is only a majority who either came here by force, by fleeing and by conjuring the natives of the land. To help provide evidence for this argument through the play I plan to look through the lenses of the writer and actors in La Miguelito. I wanted to examine the way their characters viewed the world and why. What was so needed from the audience to have them bring them into their world by breaking the fourth wall? What structure did the play have in place that mimics the structure America performs daily and do they think that was a natural or man-made structure.

Gentrification with protestors in the back photo byPHOTO BY MATT FROM LONDON/CREATIVE COMMONS. Last two photos were taken during Who Shot La Miguelito photo by:UC Berkeley Ben Dillon Crystal Haryonto, Abner Lozano, Anna Sharpe, and Geovany Calderon in "Who Shot La Miguelito?"

After the shooting of Miguelito, her ghost comes to the center stage and poses the questions of why to the audience. There are about six or seven actors on stage split on each side surrounding Miguelito. The actors that are around her expressions are distraught because of the shooting and they are mourning Miguelito's death. Miguelito in the middle with her face in terror and unbelief that she is gone. She says "You been knowing, You stay Knowing who shot." At this point the audience members seem uncomfortable, sad, some people next to me were crying. I could feel people's energy that did not know what it felt like to be these people, because they were constantly fiddling with there hands and clothes and the program. At times during the actor's direct comments, they would look away as if they were ashamed. At this point in the play, they managed to try and tear down the building that had her painting and altar to memorialize and remember her with gentrification. The other members on stage began to shout out things like "divide the soil" "Foolish Wetlands" "Brown, Brown, Brown" "There must be proof for the colonizers Check" "Poisonous kings, stealing land, hate the people who brought us here." As these things were being shouted out I began to be emotional because I empathize with the feelings they had of being told they were the minority, but being brought to the mission.

Mission District murals. [Photo:shutterstock]
Photo of urban area being transformed by rising incomes, rent and business shifting activity. Photo by: Paulo O. Photo to the left by Matt from London/Creative Commons
Gentrification is not the same as revitalization- Stacey Sutton

In my interview with Anna Sharp who played noktolonel, I asked her how did she know her character was apart of a minority group and what structures in the play lead her to believe that. Her answer was “Everyone was getting kicked out of this hood that we all came from, essentially I feel like the way the character was built Sean really wanted us to know that I’m not referring to you guys as minorities”. She goes on to say “ Y'all are POC (people of color) there is nothing minor about you”. “ Look all around you the world looks like us”. “I definitely think the concept of gentrification and even Miguelito even getting shot period definitely gave that concept of what a minority is because these are the things that only happen in minority communities”. With this insight from the actor's character you able to see that what made her feel like a minority was not that she was less than in actual numbers. The things that happened in her neighborhood in comparison to white neighborhoods is what made her feel less than but not in quantity. It was the fact that in white neighborhoods no one was dying, no one was gentrifying and displacing them in their areas, so why the mission. It’s going back to this notion that being a minority is a mindset. You are expected to know that if your not white you are the minority because at the start of America through mass genocide, seizing control, and manipulation white people deemed themselves superior therefore giving them the power to create all the rules.

I felt like I was a minority in the play because of how easily I could be erased.- Geovany Calderon

I spoke with another member of the cast Geovany Calderon who played coco, gave his response to the above question. He says “I think my character new that just by the way they were being treated”. “For one, people and kids were dying from shootings and how it was just something that happened commonly in this space”. He goes on to say that “Also how easily they could be erased, because in the play buildings were being sold off and that was happening throughout the mission district, that was a way my character knew that they were a minority race because they were treated less than what the majority race was being treated”.In conjunction with this view, I spoke with another member of the cast Geovany Calderon who played coco, gave his response to the above question. He says “I think my character new that just by the way they were being treated”. “For one, people and kids were dying from shootings and how it was just something that happened commonly in this space”. He goes on to say that “Also how easily they could be erased, because in the play buildings were being sold off and that was happening throughout the mission district, that was a way my character knew that they were a minority race because they were treated less than what the majority race was being treated”.

When interviewing the main character Daniela Cervantes about feeling like a minority group she said "Since the play doesn’t cover the entire span of their life it is not shown in the play that Miguelito has a moment of realization that they are a minority. I can only imagine that it was during their coming of age years when interactions with white America that they learned that they learned they were different in contrast. When asked if she felt if being a minority had to do with numbers she responded "Being a minority has nothing to do with a number. As seen in multiple places across the United States, “minority” groups tend to make up a large number of the populations. What makes people of color minorities is their positionality in comparison to white society by the perspective of white people.

Mission District murals. [Photo:shutterstock]

This is what I leave you with. The structure was not meant to see us in number or as a whole even if we were in unity. It was meant to see us as people opposite of the superior and by default deem the opposition as less than. In the play La Miguelito as I stated above was to show people of color taking up space, being seen and being in unity to the structure that opposes it. While Who Shot La Miguelito showed the power of the minority groups within the play, the ideology and mindset of being a minority were still in place. This is the main reason why the actors felt their characters were apart of the minority and had to be seen. That in fact, taking up space and being seen only proved the meaning of minority was not just the number it was fighting against the mentality of being less than.

Citation

Sharp, Anna. “Shandria talks to Anna Sharp.” Interview by Shandria Blackmon. Analysis Paper November 2019.

Calderon, Geovany. “Shandria talks to Geovany Calderon.” Interview by Shandria Blackmon. Analysis Paper November 2019.

Cervantes,Daniela. “Shandria talks to Daniela Cervantes.” Interview by Shandria Blackmon. Analysis Paper November 2019.

San José, Sean. Who Shot La Miguelito, UC Berkeley TDPS Production 2019.