gay pointed to the ladders in the backstage of tpac and said, “see those ladders? the front silver one on the right is where you are.”
this is true. we are clumsily perched on that front silver ladder. there are people scattered about on the other ladders, many of whom are on the top of the tallest orange ladder up against the wall. our view, on the shortest ladder, affords us the opportunity to look out, to look up and still to be able to easily see the ground. the view from the highest ladder, extended well up the wall, is a view of vast height, a view without a cluster of other ladders, a view more singular.
it has been our experience as artists that we must explain our livelihood, we must fight for acknowledgement of experience, we must advocate for our own fiscal equality. our work is not easily measurable, our effort not easily defined. we bring to every experience all we have learned about what touches the hearts of others, what resonates, what we can do to lift a message, how we can craft a concept, how we can build a program and forge a community, how we can help others see what is inside each of them. from our rung, we can still see the ground so we know that there are others less fortunate than us and we remember pretty clearly the route up this ladder, each rung a step, each rung a gratitude.
it has also been our experience that, in a world defined by financial success, there are many on those tall extension ladders, firmly grasping the tippy-top, who have lost the story of getting there. it is my belief that, too often, there are those who, each rung they clamber up, have forgotten what it is like to be on the rung below. the climb to success foregoes memory, it exempts empathy, it elicits a sense of superiority; it is not kind. the naysayers poke at those who are on rungs below, prodding them but, alas, with no reality for where those below-climbers are. assumptions are unfairly made about ability, intelligence, budgetary decisions, effort.
in this world of bills and responsibilities, work and play, absolute joys and deep sorrows, brilliant hopeful sunrises and exhausted sunsets, i wonder about the tippy-top. i wonder if it is possible to be clinging to that tippy-top and still remember.
as much as that tippy-top sounds like a world without worry, i don’t mind being on the silver ladder in the front. and every step we step, i want to remember the silver ladder in the front.
i know that each day there might be someone who just may need me to understand, without feigning it, where they are. to be able to really grasp how they feel, despite not being in their very shoes. i don’t want to be the person who looks back at them, fear filling their eyes with tears as they tell me they don’t have enough to make it, and condescendingly ask them if they want me to point them to a budget counselor. instead i want to understand their frustration in poverty, be complicit in their growth – real growth, empathetic in their fear. i want to hold their hand on the rung they are on and remember what it felt like on that rung.