the funneling of black and brown bodies into sports

You know what it is: you know what it is: you want to know what it is:
I believe in volcanoes.
I do believe in Vesuvius.
You know what I do not believe in?
Motherfucking football.
If one more person brings a uniform around my kid


Christine is very persistent that she does not want her son to participate in sports – and as the mother of a black boy she has good reason. In 2018 a study by the University of Southern California’s Race and Equity Center concluded that black men are being exploited in the name of college athletics – “Of the 65 universities studied, black men comprised 2.4 percent of all undergraduates but 55 percent of football team members and 56 percent of basketball team members “

To make this disparity worse graduation rates are lower for black male athletes and have been dropping every year. Author and ex-footballer Martellus Bennett cites this study in an article he wrote for The Washington Post Beyond the game: We teach black boys sports are their only hope. What if we let them dream bigger? Martellus talks about the larger cultural implications these stats contextualize – that so many black boys and communities see sports as the only path to success, a path out of poverty.

Sports, he says, creates a hierarchy of how students are viewed in the neighborhood and how the neighborhood chooses to uplift the student. -Athletes are overly celebrated in communities at the cost of academics, arts, technology. Football coaches discourage exploration of anything else. When “only 8 out of every 10,000 high school football players get drafted by an NFL team” this means that these communities that have been set up around black boys are setting them up to fail.

If one more person brings a uniform around my kid
Instead of a pencil or a paintbrush or 3D printer I swear to God.
My son’s voice is loud here.
And nobody says stop that.
Or sit out.
Or man up.
He is: he is: he is allowed to be.


Not only economically but in the long term we know that football causes irreparable damage to the brain. According to NPR “A report by the Journal of the American Medical Association, published in 2017, showed that in a study of 111 brains of deceased former National Football League players, 110 had evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE has been linked with repeated blows to the head, and can result in behavioral changes and cognitive decline.” Despite the known risks, low-income students think that the chance of getting rich in the NFL, or a scholarship to high school or college is worth it. (NPR)

Christine wants her son to have nothing to do with this culture and risks.

Fun quotes:
“Given the formidable revenue generating force of college athletics—especially football and basketball—these figures strongly suggest racial exploitation, the kind whereby black men are used primarily for their athletic skills to generate income for universities that educate mostly white graduates for successful careers.”
Are universities exploiting black male athletes in order to raise revenues?

“It’s a luxury to worry about these long-term, sort of abstract damages to these kids and their parents,” Samaha said. “The risks are all around them — the risks of not going to high school, the risks of not making it into college, or the risks of of falling into kind of the street path that they’d seen other people around them fall into.”
Football is their ticket out. But Samaha argues that America needs to reckon with the broader ethical implications of the sport.
“America’s dual commitments to football and racial oppression have meant that the danger of the sport will increasingly fall on the shoulders of low income black and brown kids,” Samaha said.
Meanwhile, he says, the money from the sport is mainly going to white coaches and white owners.

Poor students more likely to play football, despite brain injury concerns

“So as black boys, we learn to dunk on people in the paint, not paint beautiful pictures. We stiff-arm defenders, not defend people in court. We crossover our opponents, not cross over into business. We learn code names for play calls, not how to code. We touch the top of the backboard, not the stars. We get introduced to the world based on our athletic attributes. Our superpowers.”
Beyond the game: We teach black boys sports are their only hope. What if we let them dream bigger

Design Brainstorm

This post contains an action item specifically for the cast and team of GREATER GOOD.

As the script and design concept go through revisions, Steve, Kirsten, and Ilana are inviting folx to participate in an ad hoc design visioning brainstorm.

Read and think about the prompt below. Then, share your brainstorm with us by using the CONTACT page (found on the upper menu bar of this site).

Steve asks:

What is covered up? Behind the walls of Gleason Street School, under the floorboards, in and below the foundation of the building, is a festering history of oppression in America. It’s a goop, a guck, a living organic substance. It is a psychological manifestation of the oblivious ego of white privilege. It seeps out of the cracks. It can’t be contained. The substance holds objects — perhaps books, the pillars of the White House, broken pieces from the House of Slaves from Goree Island, for example. We want to make a brainstorm list of what other things are in this substance. All ideas are welcome.

A man is silhouetted in the “Door of No Return” at the House of Slaves museum on Goree Island near Senegal’s capital Dakar, March 16, 2007. Millions of Africans were shipped from places like this and from the whitewashed fort in Elmina, Ghana, to a life of slavery in Brazil, the Caribbean and America. The world will mark the bicentenary of the end of the Atlantic slave trade on March 25. Picture taken March 16, 2007.

Working Timeline (v. 5.23.19)

The dramaturgy team put together a timeline of events in the play as the events would have unfolded linearally, rather than the order in which they appear in the script. Actors may find it useful to refer to this chronology as we map the narrative and character journeys.

Note: as the play changes through the next week’s revisions, this timeline may also change. Watch this space for updates!

Contextualizing Whiteness

Lina posted a great resource earlier today that detailed some components that comprise “white supremacy culture.”

Last night in rehearsal, we spent more than an hour discussing how the conditions and systems of whiteness manifest themselves — in the school, amongst the council, in governance, in interpersonal relationships between characters, and in the world outside the play.

Some observations that came from that conversation are listed below. The comments have been anonymized.

• “Whiteness has been constructed in the play to be as loomingly present as it is in reality.”
• “Isa’s line about how ‘you can’t have your pet pony black person go on a rampage’ — to be on the school’s parent council, do you have to be a certain kind of black person?”
• “I’m interested in how whiteness is associated with obliviousness — permission to be oblivious. For Gordon, as the cis white head of school, only someone with his status can behave the way he does.”
• “Is part of the way Gordon keeps his position, and how everyone takes care of him, waiting on him, making allowances for him — is it because the POC on the council actually need a white guy as the figurehead?”
• “White people are able to tap out of situations/conversations/the work when it gets tough. This feels connected to Gordon’s desire to ‘just drift’ and basically walk away from this school whose mission is about access and citizenry.”
• “Thinking about ‘code-switching’ in these scenes. In life, there are metaphorical ‘front spaces’ where marginalized people need to perform, and ‘back spaces’ where marginalized people feel more comfortable to be themselves. How do POC interact during the scene with the cocktail party, where there are no white people, but they are still surrounded by the overwhelming presence of whiteness? On top of which, economics, rather than race, becomes a sorting factor with regards to characters’ status.”
• “I read recently Domination and the Arts of Resistance — it touches on front space vs back space. People in positions of power have the ability to be more casual in spaces of performance. In the cocktail party scene, Kim comes out and almost says that they need Christine to substitute for Ann on the council because they don’t want the composition of the council to shift to become more white.”
• “Whiteness as an ideology exists outside of bodies, even in a place with a plurality of black and brown people.”
• “Black people are hyper visible in some spaces while being simultaneously invisible in those same spaces. Like the way that Val presumes Christine isn’t a member of the parents council, and instead is a stranger who got lost on the way to CVS. Then, at the same time, Christine is featured in the fundraising videos as the diverse face to represent the school.”
• “There are some POC characters who are aware they’re in white spaces, and play differently to that.”
• “Marginalized people in white spaces are often called on to leverage their identity as a selling point. Like Christine is asked to do as a black woman of a lower economic status, or like Kyle has probably been asked to do with regards to their black trans identity.”
• “Wealth and whiteness are often linked, but that does not hold true in this play. Money is all over this play all the time, and the some of the wealthiest characters are POC. The most economically disadvantaged character is white, but has positional power as the Vice-Prolocutor of the council.”
• “Kirsten is looking at the issue of substitution — how white culture looks to simply substitute people of color for one another, such as we see with Ann and Christine.”

White Supremacy Culture

Built by who offered organizations support in creating anti-racist movements in their environments.
Through their years of doing this work they created a list of characteristics of white supremacy that show up in our culture and harm us.

Highly recommend reading the whole document.

White Supremacy Culture
The above link has details on the following characteristics as well as their “antidotes”
– Perfectionism
– Sense of Urgency
– Defensiveness
– Quantity Over Quality
– Worship of the Written Word
– Paternalism
– Either/Or Thinking
– Power Hoarding
– Fear of Open Conflict
– Individualism
– Progress is Bigger, More
– Objectivity
– Right to Comfort

Think about these different characteristics and how we are harmed or helped by these characteristics.

Living in the 2nd Circle

Yesterday in rehearsal, director Steve Bogart offered some guidance for how actors and characters alike might navigate the complexities of the play’s interpersonal relationships. He recommended that the actors check out the work of renowned voice teacher Patsy Rodenburg, who has codified the nature of “presence” into a system of 3 Circles of Energy. To be fully present is to live in 2nd Circle, whereas 1st Circle denotes the kind of energy that flows back into oneself, and 3rd Circle energy is that which is so big as to crowd out other voices. Check out this excellent video of Patsy speaking about 2nd Circle, and how to navigate this through life and art.

“Speech is political. Sound is political.”
— Patsy Rodenburg

Here’s a way to download and read the January 2010 American Theatre magazine article about Patsy’s work and ideas: