Melanin Monologues: Speak to be Heard
The Desmond Tutu Center is happy to report on “Melanin Monologues,” hosted by Butler University’s Black Student Union on Friday February 24. The event featured music, poems and spoken word pieces that were performed by Butler students and faculty. It also featured a performance from Indianapolis native and international spoken word artist “TOO BLACK”.
The first performance of the evening was by Bettine Gibbs, a Research Assistant at the Butler University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. She read an excerpt from “The Emperor’s New Genes: Science, Public Policy, and the Allure of Objectivity” by Dr. Ruha Benjamin. She also gave a brief talk afterward about race-based medicine.
The underlying assumption of race-based medicine is that people of different races are biologically distinct from each other and suffer from diseases in different ways. This has been practiced often on an institutional level. One recent example of this occurred in 2005 when the Federal Food and Drug Administration approved the first race-specific drug. The drug is called BiDil, which was created to treat African-American patients who suffered from heart failure. The process for approving this drug consisted of one clinical trial and didn’t include any Non-African Americans as test subjects. As a result, critics believe that these trials were insufficient and show forms of scientific racism.
Kat Hoffman, a junior at Butler University studying political science and pre-law, talked about her experience of being a black woman adopted and raised by white parents. Even though her parents were white, they emphasized the importance of black history during her childhood. Hoffman also continued to speak about feeling out-of-touch with black culture while being in high-school because she wasn’t surrounded by it as much while growing up.
Moreover, The Desmond Tutu Center’s own task force member Wesley Bryant also participated in the event, performing an original musical piece called “You’re my Morning Sunshine”. The song is about empowering people to be content with who they are. The song opens up with the first verse saying, “Alone, struck down, controlled”. That part symbolizes a person feeling unaccepted and forgotten. However, the chorus, which says “You’re my morning sunshine, if you see” establishes the importance behind a person dealing with those issues.
Other Butler performers included Anna Deloso, Dr. Terri Carney, and Dr. Terri Jett.
The last performer of the event was “TOO BLACK”, a local spoken word artist. He chooses to go by that stage name because it poses as a challenge to society on the perceptions of blackness and humanity. TOO BLACK has been performing poetry professionally for almost a decade headlining venues across the country. These venues include the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City, Soul Speaks in Chicago, and a wide range of colleges. His performance style incorporates multiple perspectives of race on the stage. It consists of personal experiences, historical and current events. TOO BLACK’s performance at the Melanin Monologues included about a half dozen of his original poems about the civil rights movement and racial issues.
The last piece that he performed was called “#WhiteLivezMatter”. The poem seeks to expose people believing that reverse racism occurs within the Black Lives Matter Movement. Reverse racism refers to discrimination against whites. TOO BLACK’s poem shows that there is a misunderstanding about the Black Lives Matter movement. Some believe the movement is a racist and violent movement, and at other times its perceived emphasis on the rights of one group is incorrectly compared to the Ku Klux Klan. As TOO BLACK emphasized in his performance, the movement doesn’t have the intention to say that other races don’t matter or create violence, rather, it exists to give a voice to those who suffer from systemic racism.
By Wesley Bryant