Theater Artists in Solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Naomi Dann | naomi@jvp.org | 845-377-5745

Theater Artists in Solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives

Dozens of Theater Artists Sign Statement Expressing Solidarity with Black Lives Matter Following NYC Benefit Cancellation

Signatories Include Wallace Shawn, Tony Award-Nominated Performers Kathleen Chalfant, Justin Vivian Bond & Tonya Pinkins, Alice Walker, and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Playwright Annie Baker

NEW YORK - Dozens of theater artists have signed a statement expressing solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives following the cancellation of Broadway Supports Black Lives Matter, a benefit that was to be hosted at Feinstein’s/54 Below, a popular cabaret club. In a note to participants, 54 Below stated they had “become aware of a recent addition to the B.L.M. platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions,” and that, as a result, they were cancelling the Sept. 11 benefit.

Many of those scheduled to perform at 54 Below instead appeared on stage at Joe’s Pub last night, where a monthly performance of The Meeting was instead turned into a sold-out fundraiser for Black Lives Matter and Say Her Name in response to the cancellation. Tony Award-winning actress Tonya Pinkins, director of the cancelled benefit concert, released a statement expressing her appreciation to The Meeting creator and host Justin Sayre, adding that: “The Movement For Black Lives recognizes that when we silently allow oppression of anyone we tacitly invite oppression of everyone.”

Janisha Gabriel, a member of the Black Lives Matter NYC chapter who spoke at the Joe’s Pub event, said: “It’s going to be important, especially as our work continues, that people support us beyond their own comfort zone. It is the Black radical tradition to stand in solidarity with international liberation movements as they resist and name their oppression. What we have done is consistent with the legacy of Martin Luther King, the Black Panthers, and the global Black diaspora that has lived and migrated through Palestine for thousands of years. You can’t just say, ‘I support Black people,’ when you feel like we are affirming the presumptions that you have about yourself and about us as Black people. Black liberation will necessitate personal and institutional change.”

The solidarity statement (see below for full text) was spearheaded by the Artists and Cultural Workers Council of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), one of the nation’s fastest-growing Jewish organizations with over 60 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters. JVP advocates for a just and lasting peace according to principles of human rights, equality and international law for all Palestinians and Israelis.

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“Opposition to Israeli government policies is not anti-semitism, and the conflation of those two things has terrible consequences,” said statement signatory Kathleen Chalfant, nominated for a Tony Award for her role in Angels in America and featured in the popular Showtime series The Affair. “It impedes, perhaps fatally, the search for just and humane solutions in Israel/Palestine and is now interfering in the search for social justice here in America. We have a moral obligation to stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian rights movement in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.”

Other signatories include Wallace Shawn, best known for his film roles including My Dinner with Andre, The Princess Bride and the Toy Story franchise; Justin Vivian Bond, whose show Kiki & Herb: Alive on Broadway was nominated for a Tony Award and who has been called “the best cabaret artist of [their] generation”; Tonya Pinkins, nominated for Tony Awards for her roles in Caroline, Or Change, Play On!, and Jelly’s Last Jam; Alice Walker, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Color Purple, which was optioned into a Tony Award-winning broadway musical; Kia Corthron, award-winning playwright, novelist and screenwriter; Naomi Wallace, award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and poet; Sarah Ruhl, award-winning playwright; and Annie Baker, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her play The Flick.

The full text of the statement may be found below. To speak with one of the statement organizers or signatories, please contact Naomi Dann at naomi@jewishvoiceforpeace.org or 845-377-5745.

Statement:

September 19, 2016–We, the undersigned, are deeply disturbed and disappointed by Feinstein’s/54 Below’s decision to cancel a scheduled benefit concert for Black Lives Matter. This decision, ostensibly due to “a recent addition to the BLM platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions,” both undermines the visionary leadership of the Movement for Black Lives and contributes to the institutionalized silencing of advocates for Palestinian human rights.

The Movement for Black Lives policy platform–a collective effort of over 50 organizations which has since been endorsed by thousands of individuals—has been attacked as anti-Semitic. Along with a growing number of artists and activists, we categorically reject this inflammatory claim. We believe that solidarity with Palestinian struggles for human rights and criticism of Israeli state violence are in no way a defamation of Jewish people, but rather a vital expression of social justice values.

We reject attempts to discredit and divert resources from this historic movement under the false pretense of challenging anti-Semitism. We call on theater venues, artists, and supporters in New York City and beyond to proudly support the Movement for Black Lives and its inspiring solidarity with the Palestinian people.

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Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.

JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.

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