Julliard School forced students to participate in ‘Slavery Saturday’ workshop


The prestigious Julliard School in New York City forced students to participate in a ‘Slavery Saturday’ workshop where they pretended to be slaves while listening to the sounds of chains, whips and the sale of a black woman for nearly 30 minutes.

Marion Gray, a current black drama student, described the “ traumatizing ” experience in an Instagram video late last month.

In the video, she recorded some of the ‘auditory imaginative experience’ played out during the workshop, which she called ‘Slavery Saturday’.

The workshop took place during the orientation in September 2020, when classes were given via Zoom. Several faculty and staff attended the presentation at Zoom, Gray said.

After her video drew attention, Julliard officials apologized for the workshop, calling it “ ill-conceived ” and a “ mistake. ”

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Marion Gray, a current Julliard School student, described in an Instagram video late last month what she called a 'Slavery Saturday' workshop.

Marion Gray, a current Julliard School student, described in an Instagram video late last month what she called a ‘Slavery Saturday’ workshop.

The Julliard School has a long list of famous celebs who are alumni

The Julliard School has a long list of famous celebs who are alumni

There was a trigger warning and audio only darkness to open the 27.53 minute video.

In the segment that Gray showed, which lasted less than two minutes, there was no visibility; only the sound of whips and chains before a black woman was sold into slavery.

A hammer thumps and thumps before a voice says, “Gentlemen, gentlemen. To draw your attention to the first item we have for sale.

‘She is a fine black pearl in death. She is in good condition. She’s young. She is flexible. She’s strong. She can wash, weave, plow and slow down. A good investment, gentlemen. And she’ll raise you fine little foxes. ‘

The sale was followed by a song in which the N word was used dozens of times, before the clip was cut short and Gray returned to her monologue.

If this had been an auditory experience of another simulated traumatic event; if it had been a 30-minute auditory experience of the Holocaust or a 30-minute auditory experience or rape, I don’t think it should have lasted 27 minutes, ”Gray said, tears running down her face.

Gray said American theater that she and her black classmates had turned off their cameras but texted each other in need.

She told American Theater that a colleague Facetimed her, Gray said, ‘And there wasn’t a dry spot on her face. She was so utterly broken that I couldn’t even look at her. I said, “I’ll call you back.” ‘

Meanwhile, the Zoom squares of the screen showed white students and faculty, and some students of color, going through the steps of the exercise seriously and without protest, American Theater reported.

Then, after it was over, the white contestants talked about how moved they were by the experience, according to American Theater, but Gray couldn’t hold on to her feelings.

“I was like, ‘There are wounds here, and you can’t just explore someone’s history and culture with them – that’s deserved, you don’t just get that,” she told American Theater, paraphrasing what she said. that day.

For seven months, Gray hasn’t discussed the matter because she said, “It’s terrifying because I don’t know what they’re going to try to do to me.”

“I don’t feel supported or respected or appreciated,” Gray said. ‘I no longer believe in this school, in this institution or in its administrators that black lives matter enough. Black lives don’t matter here. ‘

Two days after Gray posted her video, Julliard president Damian Woetzel apologized, saying the workshop on April 23 was “ misunderstood. ”

He said it was meant “to celebrate and teach the origins of the African American musical tradition,” but said the portion Gray was referring to was “extremely poignant and problematic.”

“We deeply regret that the materials used in the auditory exercise were not pre-screened and that it was not stopped once the exercise took place.”

The guest lecturer, Michael McElroy, a respected black artist and teacher, offered the program – dubbed ‘Roots to Rep’ by the school – in other places with no apparent impact, American theater reported.

Michael McElroy

Damien Woetzel

Michael McElroy (left), a respected artist and teacher, was the guest speaker on the program. Damien Woetzel, the school’s president, apologized

“It is our responsibility as artists to address difficult topics in our work, but we must ensure that we do this in a way that respects and protects members of our community,” Woetzel said in his statement of apology.

Playwright Lee Edward Colston II, who was admitted to the school’s prestigious drama division in 2012, said Michelle Miller of CBS News that the school has had problems with race and diversity.

Despite the fact that almost a quarter of the student population is black, there is almost no black staff.

“If, you know, you have a predominantly white faculty, there are cultural blind spots, right?” Colston told CBS News in an interview this weekend.

Colston believes Juilliard’s problems are partially rooted in the school’s curriculum, which he says is driven by what one teacher called “ the classics. ”

“There are many ways, you know, to discover classics, right? And who decides what a classic is? You know, what’s a classic to you and what’s a classic to me might not be the same, ”he told CBS.

Considered the gold standard among art schools, Julliard has alum such as Anthony Mackie, Viola Davis, Kevin Spacey, Yo Yo Ma, and many others. Robin Williams studied at the school for a few years but left before graduating.