Love & Wisdom

Letter to Seattle: Acts On Stage Opens Minds

Acts on Stage challenges white Seattle

By Jess Bielman February 9, 2023

Acts On Stage supporter Jess Bielman, left, with Leroy Barber, praises the nonprofit for opening his mind.

This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Image caption: Acts On Stage supporter Jess Bielman, left, with Leroy Barber, praises the nonprofit for opening his mind.

Letter to Seattle highlights the good deeds and positive experiences in our region. This is a letter from Jess Bielman, a patron of Acts on Stage, a nonprofit, professional theater company in Seattle that emphasizes people of color and people of faith.

Dear Acts on Stage, 

I know I am not exactly who comes to mind when Acts on Stage Theatre launched to center voices of color and creatives of faith. I am a white guy and I don’t consider myself particularly artistic by definition. And still the impact of your work is profound for me and my family.

I sat in the beautifully renovated theater space recently as Tia Naché  performed in her first one-woman show. The event was intentionally produced to foster community — even for strangers. The show was masterfully directed. And Tia was a brilliant storyteller with nothing to prove and still I left convinced that my life was made better by being there. My wife and I were literally the last people to leave the building. Our craving had been met and yet still lingered. 

Eventually, I remembered I was white and thought, “More of us, white people, need to be exposed and elevated by Black excellence.”  

I believe race operates in our lives in every space we occupy and unconscious bias is real. Acts on Stage’s offerings in the very demographically white Pacific Northwest is even more important and impressive to me. You have unapologetically created and invited me into opportunities to hear stories from outside of my vantage points in spaces curated by Black and brown creatives that control all of the variables. I have been made better by being in the room and witnessing artistry that did not center whiteness and gave me an unorthodox but completely authentic spiritual awakening. 

The truth we sometimes do not want to talk about is that in the Pacific Northwest often white people have very few relationships with Black people outside of our spaces that operate on dominant cultural values.

I am a fan, a proud patron and supporter of Acts on Stage. I literally have the T-shirt. My commitment is not just because I support your incredible talent, and wonderful mission. It is not just because I am excited about the Black and brown communities in Seattle having an outgrowth of artistic expression on their own terms. It is because deep down I want to be better, a more just person and more curious about my world. Acts On Stage, what you are displaying and doing for the entire Pacific Northwest community is good for all of us.

Thank you for your commitment to your work. Your reach goes beyond the shows and into the soul. Mine specifically.  

Jess Bielman

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