By Stan Paul
“What’s going on in America?”
This question — following back-to-back shootings of two black men this summer in the United States — both urged and inspired actor Scott St. Patrick to create “Minority Report,” a series of vignettes on the black experience in America. It was performed Nov. 1 at UCLA’s Broad Art Center.
The question came unexpectedly from a friend, said the 35-year-old actor, whose goal is “to attack this issue from different points of view.”
In July, “I received a call from a friend in Germany, who is white. She was crying,” he recalled. “I almost felt that I was so numb to this whole thing that these two shootings went over my head.”
St. Patrick said his friend then asked him what he was going to do about it. “I said I don’t know what to do, what can I do? She was like, ‘Do something!’
“And here was this totally objective perspective from across the seas about America and saying ‘Scott, you need to do something.’ So, that is when I started to work on this piece,” said St. Patrick, who has been immersed in theater for 12 years.
The 1½-hour series of theatrical performances, accompanied by audio and video — historical and contemporary — was sponsored by the Department of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and will be held at 5 p.m. at the UCLA Broad Art Center (2160E). To RSVP, go to: http://luskin.ucla.edu/event/minority-report/
Consuelo Bingham Mira MSW ’03 Ph.D. ’07, who is organizing the event with St. Patrick, said the purpose of bringing the performance to campus was initially for a social welfare seminar series for the Luskin School’s first-year Master of Social Welfare (MSW) students enrolled in the course “Diversity, Oppression, and Social Functioning,” and for Luskin D3 (Diversity, Differences and Disparities) Initiative students.
“When I spoke with Todd Franke, chair of the Department of Social Welfare, regarding the possibility of bringing this project to the department, I realized its importance for all MSW students and indeed for all Luskin students, faculty and staff,” said Bingham Mira, who serves as the California Social Work Education Center Public Child Welfare (CalSWEC PCW) academic coordinator at Luskin.
Bingham Mira said the CalSWEC PCW faculty and staff were struggling to try to understand the shootings and violence — of summer 2016 in particular. She said it is necessary to discuss and explore racism, oppression and self-awareness with the students, who receive education and training in providing services to vulnerable children and families, those exposed to issues of poverty, violence and trauma, many of whom are in child protective services.
“Oftentimes, the face of the worker is different from the child and the family,” Bingham Mira said. “So the question for any MSW student becomes, ‘How do I engage diversity and difference in social work practice, whether it is clinical or not?’”
“Minority Report,” which had its first performance this past Sept. 11, seeks to provide some perspective on that question. “The performance is provocative and educational,” Bingham Mira said. “You will learn about certain historical events in the black experience in the United States that are not taught in history classes.”
“I can’t tell you how many times I cried making this piece,” St. Patrick said. “Just the research going into finding out the history and what has happened over the years, it breaks my heart.”
He added, “I think the dialogue will be more like ‘What did I just see?’”
St. Patrick said this particular show is about understanding the experiences of black Americans and “why it is that we have so much frustration. And it puts a historical context on a narrative about that black experience.”
He added, “Sometimes when you see protest the only thing you can think is, ‘They’re acting like hooligans, They’re angry.’ Well, why are they angry, though? Why is it that there’s so much frustration?”
As an actor, St. Patrick said he believes “your job is to be a mirror to society of what’s going on. You basically show society what it is that they can’t see.”
St. Patrick, who also performed, said the actors “are some of the best you will find in the city.” Among the performers is Kelly Jenrette, currently on the Fox series “Pitch.”
“They are all very passionate about the subject, and they’ve made the time because of this project. They believe it’s special,” St. Patrick said. “I really want to tip my hat to UCLA for taking the initiative to want to do a project like this. We, as black actors, just representing the narrative, representing this issue, we appreciate that UCLA is taking the time and interest to have this discussion.”
St. Patrick said he hopes the performances “will evoke empathy, sympathy and move us just a little bit closer together to understanding each other.”