During my freshman year at Humboldt State I was casted in my very first theatre show. I had 5 lines, but I didn’t care. I was excited and inspired and for the first time in my life I felt accepted. I thought I had found MY people and I was over the moon, so I continued to audition for shows and when I got casted in my second one I was at a loss for words. I rushed to makeup that day, prepared to tell my new friends how excited I was; I was elated to find out they felt the same way until I heard the whispers, “It wasn’t a show with that many female roles anyway. Honestly, they should have swapped genders on some of the casting. Well, at least I didn’t get casted because I was the only Black girl that tried out.” I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand; this wasn’t a safe place.
Due to this interaction, I had suddenly become self-aware. I began counting the number of people of color on stage, I began counting the number of shows that were centered around people of color, I began keeping mental notes of every time I had to deal with a microaggression and direct racism—to say I felt alienated as result is an understatement. I knew that I never wanted another to feel this way.
Fast forward to now, 7 years later, having helped write an art grant to help people of color gain skills, have resources, gain visibility and be able to find a sense of community. I think about this moment, I think about how we got here and all I can say is, “WOW, I wish my 18-year old self had something like this to let her know that she was enough and she got that role because she deserved it.”
I hope that this site is place where you can not only find opportunity, but find family. Be brave, put yourself out there, learn something new our only wish is that you let us help you along the way.
— Michelle “Chelly” Purnell