Due to the unrest permeating the country right now due to racism, Black creatives are feeling even more emboldened to call out racism when they see and experience it.
It’s why Dear White People actor Griffin Matthews shared his chilling experiences with racism on Broadway in a now viral video shared to social media Monday. The writer and composer said he was “triggered” after watching a White woman, Amy Cooper, threaten a Black man named Christian Cooper with calling the police after she was asked to follow leash rules in New York City’s Central Park.
In the black-and-white video, Matthews, who created the documentary musical Invisible Thread, which was later renamed to Witness Uganda after being sold to White producers, said there are people like Cooper permeating Broadway, creating a racist environment. The musical, which ran off-Broadway from 2014 to 2019, centers on Matthews’ real-life trips to Uganda and the humanitarian work he spearheads with his charity, the Uganda Project.
“A song in act one mentioned the fact that I was the son of slaves. Our producer in the middle of a creative team meeting said, ‘Slavery is over. Nobody wants to hear about that,'” Matthews recalled. “Not one single person put him in check and that is Amy Cooper.”
Matthews also accused producers of saying they would not “produce [his] show if you will not change the title” along with exit the show altogether; he accused the director of saying one actress “didn’t look Black enough” for a role; and called out New York City’s Second Stage specifically, claiming that they asked his cast to perform “for free” for their gala in exchange for a donation, “but the donation never came.”
Racism has been stealing our dreams, choking our stories, looting our talent…and then discarding us when we are no longer valued.
ESSENCE reached out to reps for Second Stage, but have yet to hear back.
The writer didn’t stop there. He also pointed a finger at White reviewers who referred to his Black actors as “Big Momma” and criticized the cast’s appearance for looking “too old.” Matthews compared those reviews to that of twenty-something actors starring in Broadway’s hit high school musical, Dear Evan Hansen. “White people get to play make believe onstage,” he deadpanned.
“That is why Broadway is racist,” he continued, calling out directors, choreographers, agents, stage managers, casting directors, press teams and reviewers “pretending to be allies.”
“The thing about Amy Cooper is she is a liberal,” Matthews continued in his more than seven minute video. “She speaks eloquently about how much she cares about diversity and inclusion. She has made her entire career about that. She works with Black people. She believes she loves Black people. She buys their work, then behind closed doors she steals it.”
“Racism has been stealing our dreams, choking our stories, looting our talent,” he added, “and then discarding us when we are no longer valued.”
Matthews then observed that he “may never make it to Broadway for speaking out over the horrific treatment I’ve received,” but noted that women like Cooper usually aren’t negatively affected.