Anna Deavere Smith Previews 'Notes From the Field' – Variety

On Tuesday, I participated in #BlackoutTuesday, an online movement I saw Monday night.  Kristian Harloff had posted that shows on his YouTube network, including SEN Live and the Movie Trivia Schmoedown, would go dark Tuesday out of respect for what was going on in the world over the last week.  Upon further investigation on my behalf, I discovered that there were plenty others joining in on #BlackoutTuesday.  

I decided to join in.  I have been watching in horror the events unfolding in Minneapolis and across the U.S. in response to the death of George Floyd and I thought this was a good way to join in.

Tuesday would see me go silent on social media for the day.  That meant no Twitter, Facebook, EYG, Snapchat, TikTok or Hero Games FOrums for twenty-four hours.  That is a chunk of what I do on a normal day.

NOTES FROM THE FIELD – ANNA DEAVERE SMITH PROJECTSHowever, going silent on social media, despite how much time I may spend there in a typical day, means very little.  It meant I couldn’t see the latest insane Donald Trump tweet or the newest TikTok dance.  So what?  The fact was that going social media silent did nothing.  Instead of being silent, I needed to expand my knowledge.  I needed to educate myself.

As a white guy, I would never claim to understand the fears and horrors faced by the black community on a daily basis.  The idea of having to explain to your children about ways that you need to speak to the police, not out of respect but out of fear for your life, is completely foreign to me.  So it was important that #BlackoutTuesday was not just a day off from social media, but that I would spend my day learning.  But how?

That Tuesday morning, I was watching Morning Joe on MSNBC and they had a guest named Anna Deavere Smith, an actress whom I remembered from the movie The American President, speaking about the re-released of an HBO documentary/one-woman-show from 2018 called Notes from the Field.  It was based on a play written and performed in 2015 by Smith.  It discussed issues of race with Smith adapting a series of real-life characters during the show.  Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski said that the award-winning show would be back on HBO and available on VOD.

Playwright and Actress Anna Deavere Smith's 'Notes From the Field ...And I found my way.

I went to Vudu this afternoon and found the video and rented it.  It was an amazing film.  Anna Deavere Smith was just astounding, showing great range embodying each real life character in each section of the story.  Through her singular monologues, Smith revealed the tragic circumstances of each story.  The presentation of the stories were aided by a stand up bass, some artistic background sets and some horrifying pieces of video featuring the real life people involved in each story.

The stories included examples of police brutality with black suspects.  It spoke about the School-to-prison pipeline and the struggles of children within the classroom.  The story included the tale of Rep. John Lewis and a powerful experience of forgiveness.

Notes from the Field was emotional, powerful and devastating.  It also showed the humanity and empathy of the human beings that Anna Deavere Smith portrayed.  It truly is a must see film.

We cannot let this point in history get away from us.  This must lead to changes to our system, a chance to begin the healing, not just closing our eyes and hoping that everything goes back to normal.  We must not let it go.  This must be a time for the history books.

I should specify that I know that every police officer is not racist.  My best friend for 35 years is a police officer.  There are plenty of good men and women in the police.  It is the system that is the problem.  It must be fixed from within.  This feels like the moment.


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