Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Sanctuary: George Emilio Sanchez and BAX's Marya Warshaw on upholding free speech

First Amendment Sanctuary Spaces is an initiative that aims to create a network of performance and cultural spaces, as well as places of worship, that pledge to uphold the foundational elements of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment at a time when enforcement of these fundamental constitutional guarantees is not assured.

A statement from
George Emilio Sanchez
writer, performer, director, educator
and the creator of the First Amendment Sanctuary Spaces project

Almost overnight, we have found ourselves in a threatening time with little light. Almost overnight, ways of life, the questions of citizenry, the avenues by which people identify who they are and where they come from, our racial and gender identities, and the reality of the 1% v. the 99%, have suddenly arisen to become the signifiers for "authentic" Americans.  As a way to move forward, to continue to create, to find ways to connect one story to another, one person to another, to meet indifference, fear, and ignorance at the crossroads, this initiative, First Amendment Sanctuary Spaces, offers one alternative to create a narrative that brings stories, cultures, faiths and people together under the umbrella we call the Constitution.

The First Amendment articulates the foundational elements essential to any free and open society.  The arts and expression, a free and open press, and the exercise of religious beliefs, all are key ingredients of a democratic society.  Each strand of this quilt, the arts, the press and religion, individually and collectively, function to create the practice of freedom.  All are essential to the life and soul of this country.  But they are all in jeopardy under El Trumpo's administration.  We have awoken to a dark time with little light.  But this project aims to be pro-active, to be one step ahead, as we carve a way forward where we can affirm our place in this country.  Frederick Douglass, who has been cited by our president to be doing amazing things, once said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never has and it never will."  Rights, and subsequently our freedom, are not passively given to people.  Laws are meaningless without the passion and fervor to make the word flesh.  The challenges every one of us faces individually, or as members of the myriad communities we find kinship and solace with, stare us in the face today.  But dark times are also the windows of opportunity we can take up to bring us the light we demand.  Through the arts, we can nurture the strength and commitment of affirming who we are in the face of these challenges.  The arts are the human-made gifts that can bring us joy, can throw us to the depths of our fears, and still ignite celebrations and declarations of how the nuances of our commonality present us with years and years of newfound understanding.  The arts are the ultimate form of non-violent resistance that express the eloquence of the human spirit.

This network is committed to upholding the tenets of the first amendment.  We are sanctuaries that will protect and keep safe the freedom of speech, of the press, of the people to peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  In perpetuity, which colloquially means....to keep on keeping on!
For more information on First Amendment Sanctuary Spaces and to find out how you or your organization can participate, visit the Facebook page here.

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