What will people say?

Join us Feb. 20 for a night of theatrical readings to explore stories and issues close to the South Asian American community.

Issue #14

I looked everywhere they told me to look but I couldn’t find myself.

Brown skin that wasn’t Black and wasn’t Brown like our friends who spoke Spanish, and certainly wasn’t white. South Indian last names so winding that Midwesterners didn’t bother trying, so long you learned to spell them by hearing a parent recite the letters over the phone, one by one —

R as in Red, A like Apple, G like Gandhi…

And so, slowly, you learned all the letters in your last name. You learned that if everything important was baked into headlines, if the newsprint we got was the paper of record, if books we read in school were stories worth telling, if journalism is the first draft of history, you are not important.

Things are changing, people are realizing what’s meant by the phrase representation matters. News outlets, Instagram accounts, TikTokers: South Asians are all over them, dancing to Bollywood music, showing off culinary concoctions, being. And me. I’m writing again. Plays, mostly, about Brown people. Reclaiming words.

These plays I wrote, we’re performing two of them for Red, White and Brown’s inaugural virtual event on Saturday, Feb. 20 (more details below). Vignesh and I hope you’ll join us. We’ll have real people doing live readings of my scripts. They’re about relationships and academic achievement — two themes that rattled around the first few decades of my life like a small rock stuck in my shoe. Maybe for you, too, these themes are your rock-in-shoe. Maybe it’s something else. We’d like to hear about your rock in facilitated discussions after the performances.

We’re calling the event WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY? That’s a reference to community pressures, a nod to people like Hasan Minhaj and filmmaker Iram Haq, who’ve publicized the phrase. But also a double meaning:

Will they like my writing will they think it’s good will it be good what if it’s not oh God what if no one comes what will people say

This anxious inner dialogue. This is where art lives, especially untold pieces, newness we haven’t yet seen. No hard truths without a little self-doubt. It’s all live, just like the boldest stories. It may be perfect. It may be chaotic. But for that little girl who couldn’t find herself: She’s finally starting to see.

Beena Raghavendran (@thebeenster)
Co-founder of Red, White and Brown Media

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What Will People Say?

A night of theatrical readings to explore stories and issues close to the South Asian American community.

  • Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021

  • 8 p.m. ET/6 p.m. MT/5 p.m. PT on Zoom


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Red, White and Brown sparks conversations about culture and politics in the United States through the lens of South Asian American race and identity. Please tell your friends and family to subscribe to this newsletter and follow the latest posts on Medium.