David Harewood


Last week I wrote a column for this publication in which I mentioned that I’m a member of the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local Number 12. In it I exposed the association one of our members also had with the Proud Boys (PB) and that he’d been caught passing out PB propaganda at a worksite. He was removed from the worksite that weekend and, during an executive committee meeting a few days later, was justly and thankfully removed from our union altogether. 

In the column, I called him “Andy.” His name isn’t “Andy.” 

I also seemed to leave the impression in that column that those who choose to work as laborers at the Convention Center are somehow rougher than the theater crews.

Neither of those things are true. In the first place, the one Andy that’s in our local, can (and has) walked intellectual circles around the “Andy” I mentioned in the last column; in the second, many of those who primarily work the Convention Center are higher up on the food chain than anyone who prefers the theater. 

In the second, they’re not rougher, but they’re definitely tougher. (Cue the theater crews coming at me in three, two. . . )

After reading my column from last week,  several members of my union privately reached out to me. All  but one of them asked me when I planned to write an official letter to our union officers about officially denouncing all alt-right or alt-lite activity within our membership. One of them flipped me off for dragging the union into a political debate. Another sent me a video of "Andy," standing in front of the QAnon Shaman at the mall on January 6th, 2021. In it, 'Andy” stands with a serene smile on his face as the shaman -- AKA Jake Angelli, an out-of-work actor who likes to chase conspiracy theories -- stands behind him proclaiming that "This is our 1776" and other such nonsense before setting siege to the US Capitol for the first time since the War of 1812. 

I mentioned that the Executive Committee of our local voted to revoke “Andy”’s union card. In the meantime, the group to which he has pledged allegiance threatened to disrupt a storybook reading done by drag queens hosted by a school and a church.

The first of these is a wonderful example of the power of the pen and the Labor Movement to take collective stands on pressing cultural and ethical issues; the second is a warning of how  urgent the need to do so really is.

This past month has been full of examples of how political discourse in this country has devolved from a veritable contact sport into an actual bloodsport: a lackluster showing from the Republicans in the midterms at the ballot box has emboldened their base to flex their muscles on the ground, sometimes to deadly effect: days after the man who once told his supporters to “beat the hell out of” the “sons of bitches” who interrupted one of his rallies with messages of Black Lives Matter failed to deliver at the ballot box, one teenager shot up an LGBT club in Colorado. A week ago, another teenager, who drove to a Buffalo supermarket specifically to kill Black people, pled guilty to murder and hate crimes.

The Proud Boy threat against the December 3rd Drag Story Hour resulted in that event’s cancellation. Versions of the rationalizations as to why are detailed by all sides in leadership of the event here.

The Proud Boys showed up in front of the Chipotle across the street from the church, as did their Patriot Front friends. There were a few hundred of them, most with guns, several with megaphones and signs. The group of white, male, 40- and 50-something men and women chanted choice phrases like “Stop Grooming Our Children,” (because of course reading children’s stories in costume is a “grooming” activity,) and “Universalist Unitarianism is the Poor Man’s Scientology (because of course a religion based on the idea that there’s an inherent dignity and worth of every person, calls for justice and equanimity in all human relations, and a free and responsible search for truth and meaning-- three of their Seven Principles, is equal to a religion based on a science fiction writer’s philosophy of immortality that’s tried to shut down TV shows that make fun of it.)   

Across the street were a little over a hundred of us, waving flags of inclusion and empowerment. Chants of “Love thy neighbor as thyself” from a group of all ages, creeds, colors and, yes, genders, were met with cries of “Kanye was right” by the other side.

Those “western chauvinists” who claim to be children of God while burning rainbow and Black Lives Matter flags would do well to be reminded: our country’s motto is “E Pluribus Unum.” It means “Out of Many, One.” 

That’s about the celebration of diversity, no matter how imperfect that celebration was from the beginning.

They spit on that legacy by disrupting a gathering of school children and clergy celebrating this unity amongst diversity. The community came out to remind these terrorists what’s made this country great in spite of itself.

On Saturday, there were more of them than there were of us. The thing is that they all looked alike and we looked like the prism that makes up the real America in which those chauvinists are losing power. We brought messages of love while they brought messages of hatred.

Throughout every large cultural conflict, love wins in the long run.

As long as we remember that, we’ll win.