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Ithaca may be a leader in environmental change, but when it comes to issues of race we need to be honest about the situation.
On campus there has been a lot of student engagement about what our school administration can do to end racism on campus. The important thing to remember is the Ithaca College campus is just a part of the puzzle. Whenever we all graduate and leave this campus the race dialogue will still be happening. It's an ongoing conversation not a one-and-done talk.
Early this month the Civic Ensemble held a community based play called "On The Corner". The show follows the narratively that we have, sadly, grown accustomed to black teen and a white cop, but the show does not end the same way most stories in the news have. The central question in the play is "How did we get here?"
The play recounts the history that we all know: slavery, but it also discusses the lesser known causes for systematic racism.
For those unfamiliar with the race issue in Ithaca or who doubt it's existence, one of the actors said it best, "We compost and that's great, but when it comes to gentrification and segregation we are part of America. It's easy because we are so far ahead with environmental issues to say that we are progressive, but in terms of race we're not".
Alan Godfrey, who plays a NYC tour-guide in the show, has dealt with the race problem in Ithaca first hand. Godfrey was friends with Shawn Greenwood who was shot and killed by police in 2010. During the race riots at Ithaca's high school, he led students to and from their classes. Godfrey said that being part of this play was important because we need to stop pretending that racism cannot happen here because it already has.
In August 2014, there was an incident involving Ithaca police and a group of black teens, thankfully, the situation did not escalate, but Mayor Myrick has been open with his fears, "As a black man, I'm well aware of the history of violence between the police and young men of color," Myrick said. "... and motivated to ensure that this pattern does not play out in our city."
We, as a community, need to start a dialogue about race and the systematic racism that happens in Ithaca and beyond before we have a Ferguson-situation here. We cannot wait until there is more bloodshed.
After the curtain closed, the actors and the audience gathered to discuss the impact of the show and what we can all learn from the character's experience.
If the play answers the question how we got here, the new question that should be on all of our minds is where do we go from here and how do we get there?
"On the Corner" is coming back for three special performances, so if you didn't get to see it the first time you can catch it November 19-22at the Beverly J Martin Elementary school.