An organization I was working with was creating a project to show the diversity of the Black community. The project was going to include a series of recordings and one of the producers contacted me about auditioning we scheduled a meeting. The day of the meeting the producer never showed up. I sent a follow-up email to reschedule. She never replied. I phoned and left a voice mail. No reply. A week later open auditions were announced for the voice over project, and I called and emailed again requesting an audition appointment and still, no reply.  eventually I gave up confused, frustrated and feeling more than a little insulted.

It was some time before I had a suspicion of the reasons behind this. They didn’t like the way I speak. I speak with what some people call “accent neutral” English. Both of my parents had been English teachers as part of their careers and they understood the power and value of being articulate. So they insisted all their children properly and with as little accent as possible.  I remember my mother tirelessly correcting me to say ” I saw” instead of “I sar”.  I don’t speak perfectly and I still struggle with grammar a times. But I do speak very well. So some people think I “Sound White.” I suspect that this is why I was dropped from consideration for this project. I suspect it was someone over the producer’s head who made the decision and she didn’t want to say it to me directly. So instead she avoided me. I’ve gone for projects since then which have made the same decision but in those cases they actually told me they that I “sounded too White”, or I “wasn’t Black enough”. And there are enough similarities to for me to think the decision process was the same.

There are two points I’d like to make here. One since I am in face a Black man I DO sound Black. Every sound I make even if it is a resounding fart sounds Black.

Second, It qualifies as a fail ,if not an epic fail, when you plan an arts project to celebrate the diversity of a community then execute the project based on a narrow stereotype.

 


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