Awardee: Alexandra Espinoza

Primary Artistic Medium: Performance

Idea

BlackBestFriend is a creative generating space devoted to the healing expression of Black women who have experienced racism in intimate personal relationships with white women. In the workshop space, Black women use guided meditation, monologue exercises, time travel, and therapeutic theatre practices to decolonize their own sense of interpersonal wellbeing. The secondary aim of the workshops is to gather material from our lived experiences as Black women that can be built into a (virtual if necessary) public performance about how we liberate ourselves from oppressive interpersonal dynamics, and to illustrate the need for collective healing in order to continue to fight for our humanity in healthy and whole ways.

The workshop space currently serves a small group of Black women theatre artists, and will soon expand to serving theatre students at the Community College of Philadelphia, thanks to a Leeway Art and Change Grant. The workshop space allows varying levels of participation and creative output, in that participants can enter the space solely looking for healing conversation, or they can approach it to create their own work of art, or they can contribute to the larger performance aspect of the project that I have committed to. As an Art is Essential Idea, it is my hope that I could build a larger community of Black women to participate in BlackBestFriend. The community I aim to serve infiltrates all walks of life in Philadelphia: Black women who have survived being the “Black best friend”, Black women who went to mostly white schools, who have worked in mostly white places, who have lived in mostly white spaces.

A brief explanation of this project’s evolution shows its resonance to this particular moment of “the new (ab)normal”. BlackBestFriend began as an idea for a traditional stage play about a white friend and Black friend “hashing it out” after racial inequities have created a rift between them. The necessity of social distancing due to Covid-19 and the newly exposed dynamics of racial inequity made me feel emotionally incapable of continuing the project. I realized that as an activist and artist I needed to center my own healing in my practice before I could be whole enough to continue the fight against white supremacy culture. Restructuring the project in this way has allowed my playwriting process to be a collective one in a time of increased isolation, and has allowed me to offer a healing space to other survivors of white supremacy culture. In expanding the project, I want to offer community space to Black women who are not professional artists as a therapeutic tool. Theatre for social change, where performance and creative process is brought into community spaces, is a large part of my artistic practice and expanding the BlackBestFriend community beyond my fellow artists will allow the creative work it generates to land in the laps of the people who need it most. While this project is flexible to the moment and ready to pivot from the virtual to the physical, it is uncompromising in its commitment to the liberation of Black women through building community, encouraging joy, and creating space for vulnerable, unvarnished, authentic self-expression.