In May 1963, Robert F. Kennedy met with a small group of Black artists and activists, including Dramatists Guild members James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry. When Kennedy seemed unable to comprehend the pain of Jerome Smith, who had been beaten and jailed by the police, Hansberry reportedly said, “if you are insensitive to this, then there is no alternative except our going into the streets…and chaos.”
It has been 57 years since Lorraine Hansberry walked out of that meeting, and systemic racism remains pervasive throughout American society. The brutal murder of George Floyd, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, is the latest atrocity in a history of oppression spanning four hundred years. Rage has become the only rational response. As Hansberry said to Kennedy, “We would like, from you, a moral commitment.” We call on every American to make a personal commitment to immediate change.
As writers, we express solidarity with our colleagues in the press, who place themselves at risk to keep us informed. In an era of endless spin, the devolution of truth, and the demonization of science, journalistic freedom is among our most essential values.
We passionately affirm our commitment to amplify and protect the voices of Black writers. We honor the legacy of Baldwin and Hansberry, and support the next generation of Guild members. We will continue to work with writers to build theatrical responses to their communities’ needs.
Musical genres such as blues, jazz, rock-n-roll, r&b, and hip-hop, created by African Americans, fuel the musicals which keep Broadway alive and grace the stage of every theatre and school in America. Plays written by African Americans have deepened our understanding of the human experience and expanded the canon of literature’s most celebrated works. Without Black people, and their constant creation of imaginative and exciting art forms, the American theatre as we know it could not exist.
We strongly condemn leadership that refuses to address the overwhelming pain of its citizenry, that meets civic protest with violence, and that fails to ennoble us and inspire us during a very dark time. We need to be reminded of our nation’s common purpose: to provide freedom and equality to all of its people.
The Dramatists Guild of America
With the Support of
The Dramatists Guild Foundation
The Dramatists Legal Defense Fund
The Dramatists Guild Institute of Dramatic Writing
DG Copyright Management