Understand Our Ground–The Law Itself

(Screenshot and post by August Schuloenburg. Pictured: Anthony Wills Jr., Rocio Mendez, Anna Rahn, Jennifer Tsay and Rachael Hip-Flores. Anthony and Ann are performing their gesture narrative based on the process described below.)

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“Tell a story about a time where you felt like you had power over someone else, or about a time where you felt threatened.”

These were are prompts at the first rehearsal for the Food:Soul Understand Our Ground piece that we’re developing based on the Florida law itself ( you can read that here). We then story-circled based on the prompts, trying to understand the genesis and application of the law from a personal, visceral, lived-in level. When had we ourselves stood our ground with violence? How did that story live within us now? This frame allowed us to approach the law from a place of personal curiosity, not judgement, a refrain borrowed theatre-maker Khanisha Foster as a founding principle for this event.

After each story, we wrote down phrases, ideas and words that resonated with us on note cards and placed them in the center of our story circle. These story fragments became the building blocks of our next phase, and you can see some of those fragments anonymously shared below.

We then split into teams of two and built gesture narratives, based on the story fragments. We also incorporated phrases from the Stand Your Ground Florida law itself. We’ll be using some of this gestural vocabulary, and some of the story fragments, in assembling the piece itself at our second rehearsal tonight. Then, on Tuesday, we’ll finesse the piece into its final form.

Here are some of the powerful story circle fragments and phrases taken from the law itself–together, they took take on a kind of jagged poetry that we’ll try to bring to proper life:

Phrases from the Law Itself:

Such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself against the other.

Such force is necessary to prevent imminent death.

No duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with  force.

A reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm.

A person is justified in using force.

Story Fragments:

I like to love people, in theory. But really, I hate people.

That’s why I’m a martial artist, girl!

Where I’m from, everyone has a gun.

If someone disrespects you, you have to do something about it.

Is this the time I’m going to have to figure out what to do?

I’m getting on this train, and you’re not getting on this train, understand?

And I wanted to say something racist because it’s the fastest way to cut someone.

I didn’t think that was inside of me, but it surged up so powerfully.

Now that story lives with me.

How dare you not defend me?

I was really ashamed to be proud of that, and kind of proud I was ashamed.

Why do you have to be so fucking stupid?

How do you learn to love people if it requires sacrificing some part of yourself?

There’s something emasculating about running.

And I realized in that split second, he was coming right for me.

Thank God he didn’t die.

I served my country, but I ended up serving time.

I’m always pre-emptive.

I’m always the person who runs away and calls the police.

The law morphs to justify whatever needs to be justified.

Some shit is going to happen at some point in your life, and maybe it’s now.

That feeling after something traumatic happens.

There’s a creepy guy trying to have a moment with me.

Why do you have to be right so bad?

Evil doers can feel out fear.

Doing the most helpful thing makes you feel like a coward.

My brother-in-law was shot, my cousin was shot, my uncle was run over on purpose.

I always carry around two wallets.

Are you following me?

He was an initiation.

I grew up around gang violence.

I’m not trying to have a moment, I go into my book.

My friend got his nose bloodied, and I cowered and ran.

He was extremely hyped up, he was extremely aggressive.

That kind of self-righteous anger makes you twisted, it’s a cancer.

Little New York rich kid on some kind of drug.

Everyone is supposed to be tough.

I’ve been dealing with my anger management.

A lot of times they’re good kids, just one night they’re fucked up.

Any time I wasn’t doing that, I wasn’t being a man.

I get angry really fast, it’s just a part of my personality.

People make it messy.

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