My Turn, Andria Cantrell: ‘Point Blank’ right for Salisbury’s moment

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A writer’s heart is always exposed, staring out of the page with all of its brokenness, loveliness, strength and persistence. You can learn so much about a writer, simply by paying attention to the way in which that person arranges words on a page.

A playwright’s heart pushes beyond the boundaries of a page. The words of a playwright are given life by the voices of the actors on the stage and by lights, music and the display of the artistic talents of many people. When a playwright’s words are combined with the talents of all of the others, what you get is something truly beautiful that only lasts for a moment in time. It can never be quite the same again because the voices, music, venue and lighting will never come together again in exactly the same way. It’s magic, like a long jazz jam coming together with just such a composition of musicians, on just the right night, in a very specific little club, where the audience breathes with the music and fades into the jazz.

Thus, the play “Point Blank,” written by Craig Kolkebeck and staged this past weekend at Lee Street Theater was with us for just such a moment in time.

Just as we can see the writer’s heart in this play, we also see reflections of some harsh truths about our community. We often do not want to face such truths. Our reactions as white people are often defensive.

“Point Blank” brought those defensive reactions into the light and made us hear what we sound like to others. In very simple language, the names of all of the unarmed black people who have been killed in this country by police were simply named.

Some of the white responses were that it was anti-police and some who saw it simply stopped listening—turned and looked away from the death that was put right in front of our faces. Those of you who are Christians could describe this as a hardening of the heart. Humanists could reflect on the inhumanity of human beings to one another. Buddhists may point out that we need not find the cause of the arrow, but we do need to remove it before the injured dies. Except the injured here is not an individual; it is the whole of our society. We are all struggling to find the root causes — to point a finger in a direction that shifts responsibility away from us and onto someone or something else. Meanwhile, the arrow remains. The patient is dying.

The play was not anti-police. It was about the call for justice and a venue through which the voiceless could be heard because we are not hearing those voices now. We turn off the news.

We retreat into our own safe little world and we say to ourselves, “But I am not racist.” If we continue to turn our faces away from this death, insist that we are innocent of the blood of the black people being killed in this country, continue to cry out “all lives matter,” then we are doomed to continue the fatal mistakes of history and die as a society.

A society can only be measured by how it treats those whose voices cry out from the margins. If we have become deaf to that, then we need to learn sign language. If we have become blind to that, then we need someone to describe to us the reality that we cannot see.

Someone in our community has done that. It is the playwright, who has written the pain and death currently taking place in this country and right here in Salisbury, in large letters.

White people are collectively to blame for what has led us to this place of death. Our silence, our defensiveness, our blindness and our complete and total denial of what is happening around us is complicit in this death.

Andria Cantrell lives in Salisbury.