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Representation Kills/Representation Gives Life

Representation: How something is depicted. However ‘realistic’ texts may seem to be, they involve some form of transformation. Representations are unavoidably selective (none can ever ‘show the whole picture’), and within a limited frame, some things are foregrounded and others backgrounded…in the mass media, critics understandably focus on issues such as truth, accuracy, bias, and distortion…or on whose realities are being represented and whose are being denied. The Oxford Reference
Representation is what enables the white establishment to persist in its lies about Black boys, Black people, and the US’ history of crimes against humanity. It has the power to not only poison one group against another, but can have the additional consequence of poisoning people against themselves. As a child, the lies propagated in American culture infuriated me. I didn’t see myself or my family represented in art and my neighborhood was represented only as a wasteland. This omission created a deep drive in me to be seen and – naively believing that the only thing missing from the cultural equation was me – motivated me to become a creator. As an adult in academia and the entertainment industry, I discovered that the blank spaces and false representations were not accidental but strategic. And, as I learned more about the psychology and power of storytelling, I also recognized that the repercussions of bigoted narrative were deeper and more widespread than my younger self could ever have conceived. Wielded with greed and a hunger for power, representation sways elections, oppresses communities, and destroys lives. While overt propaganda used to be reserved for rallying troops and demoralizing enemies during wartime, the modern proliferation of media platforms means we now have domestic propaganda — comprised of negative political campaigns, Fox News, internet trolls, Twitter, and bots — sowing suspicion, division, and hatred 24-7. So, when that 84 year old white man who shot a young Black boy who’d mistakenly knocked on his door claims he felt scared for his life and did what he had to do — he’ll mean it. Just like the cops mean it when they claim to have been defending themselves by using deadly force on unarmed Black men. And, because of the stories they’ve been told and the stories they still believe, they’ll all be telling some perverted kind of truth. This is the fury and the fire that stokes my work. All this constitutes the propulsive anger that still drives me. But where I once cared only about my own experience being acknowledged, I now feel that omitting little Bronx-born Puerto Rican Jewish girls from science fiction movies was only the tiniest casualty in our American narrative catastrophe. But that was what I needed to get to where I am today. My work is dedicated to the life-giving potential of diverse storytelling and to supporting voices whose stories will generate new conversations and new understandings of our world — one screenplay, article, essay, book, blog post, keynote speech, storytelling slam at a time. Edited · 3h
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