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From our Founder

 

I love theatre. I have made so many beautiful and loving connections through this art form, and have had some of the most joyful, proud, and enriching moments of my life in theatre spaces. A few years ago, through theatre, I connected with a beautiful, vibrant little girl named Kayla Joy Smith. She is the child of white adoptive parents who felt I could hold a space of guidance for her as she learns to navigate the world in her skin, which looks like mine. Knowing and loving her has been one of the greatest and most enriching joys of my life, and without theatre we may never have connected.

I have also had some of the most discouraging, disheartening, and degrading experiences of my life in the theatre. I’ve experienced everything from a white actor telling me that we should trade roles because their role was “usually played by a Black woman”, to being told that a Black woman my age who hasn’t made it “by now” should consider a career change. It has been a constant and traumatizing part of navigating the spaces in which I do what I love.

The theater, like most of the world, was not structured with me in mind. American theater practices are rooted in minstrelsy, and was not built with the consideration that I, as a Black artist, would be working at all, let alone working intimately alongside people still learning how to relate to me because of my skin color. Because of this,  there is often no systemic support in place for me to report incidents of overt racism and microaggression in a private, protected way. This lack of proper consideration can create lasting harm when BIPOC theatre makers are invited into creative spaces that have not appropriately prepared for their safe inclusion. I am dedicated to ensuring that Kayla will be able to create theatre joyfully as she grows up, free from the pain I have felt as a result of uninformed and unprepared environments that have failed to protect, or sometimes even consider, me in a meaningful way.

Gabrielle & Kayla Joy

My aim is to create a world in which I, and Kayla Joy, and all theatre artists – present and future – feel that the organizations in which they do what they love are the safest spaces they could possibly be.  Therefore, the name of this initiative is both of ours: a symbol of my commitment to making theatre spaces the most prepared they can possibly be for her, and the young Black and brown artists of the future.

Kayla Joy should feel valued in the spaces she’s invited to be a part of.
I should feel valued in the spaces I’m invited to be a part of.


All Black people, all Indigenous people, all people of color, should feel valued in the spaces they are invited to be a part of.

Gabrielle Jackson

Founder and Director of The Joy-Jackson Initiative

© 2021 The Joy Jackson Initiative

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