Daniel Hanchett is a native of Houston, TX and recently graduated with his B.A. in Theatre from Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU). At PVAMU, he was the President of the Charles Gilpin Players; active as stage manager and assistant producer on several productions including Black Nativity: Symbols of Our Souls, Jelly’s Last Jam, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and the director for Black Love Song #1, Freshman Orientation Show and the 2014 New Faces production.
He currently serves as the Interim Performing Arts Coordinator of the South Dallas Cultural Center, a city owned facility dedicated to exposing Dallas communities to the various identities of African and African American culture through multi-disciplined art; and as the Technical Director/Production Manager of Progress Theatre, a touring theatre ensemble.
In the near future, he plans to pursue graduate studies in arts administration to further his studies as a theatre manager and director.
My name is Daniel. I am a friend, son, brother, uncle, arts administrator, educator, artist and
activist. I feel grateful to be a part of this next leg of the Life Starts Now journey and am excited
to be given a platform for my voice to reach eyes and ears willing to read or hear what it conjures. I
am brining my life, passion, insights, thoughts, ideas, opinions, activism and love to this blog in
hope to develop a community of conversation as it pertains to the lives of young, Black adults of
my generation. I now, officially, check-in to this blog and welcome you to my experience.
I like to look at life through the lenses of higher purpose and interconnectivity. I feel that there is
always more to the waves and woes of this world than what see on the breadth of life. When it
comes to current events & issues, life, love and journey, I like to reach past the surface and
clinch the core. Understanding that everything in our spectrum is interconnected, the question
“why” lives innately in my mind and is vital to the exploration of understanding. I am at a place in
life where I’m am learning and understanding things that I’ve experience before but just didn’t
quite get at a rapid pace due to this continual state of exploration. Thus, this blog
and those to come will be explorations to the “whys” that come about in my daily life.
A few months ago, I traveled to Hawaii to take part in a residency with Progress Theatre, a
touring theatre company that uses theatre and activism to create cross-community dialogue that
entices healing processes from racism and other negative social stigmas that have yet to be
acknowledged by American society. Ample “whys” arose from this trip and I’d like to share a
blog I wrote about the trip to introduce the Life Starts Now Community to my way of exploration
and thought process. I hope you all enjoy and I look forward to the journey ahead. Peace &
HEADLINE #1: Being the technician of Progress Theatre, I’m afforded the opportunity of
observation in a different way that the performers in the Ensemble. During residencies, if I’m not
coordinating lighting, sound or other technical matters, I have the pleasure to see how the work
of PT affects communities during workshops, shows and talkbacks and to take in the big picture
of the environment we live in while in residence.
BASELINE #1: As the character Broadcast in The Burnin’ would put it, in this blog I want to “Get
past the headline and into the baseline.” My baseline: I’m angry. As a young, Black male,
twenty-two years of age: I’m livid. Injustice, inequality, prejudice, ignorance, colonization,
passivism, White Privilege, subpar public education, stereotypes, bigotry and racism make me
angry. This blog is about my observations, feelings, emotions, insights and explorations in
continuing to understand my country, this world, my ancestry and OUR history.
HEADLINE #2: I had some great experience in Hawaii and during the residency, artistically and
spiritually. In a land as beautiful as Hawaii and an estate as stunning as Doris Duke’s Shangri
La Center for Islamic Arts and Culture, one can’t help but examine his/her place in life and
connection with the Most High. I enjoyed learning more about Doris Duke and more about
A spiritual highlight for me was wanting to revisit and learn more about my own spiritual
practices after taking a tour of Shangri La. There were several phrases engraved in walls and
doorways through the museum written in Arabic. Our artistic director was able to translate the
words for us. One of the phrases that stood out to me was the bismillah. She told me that
bismillah means in the name of God and is said before each prayer in the Muslim faith.To see
the bismillah and other reminders thoughout the home, through inspiration, reminded me of my
own spiritual practices and faith. It was a much needed reminder and a beautiful glimpse into
An artistic highlight for me was PT’s collaborative high school workshop with the Sound Shop
program at Honolulu Museum of Art. The weight of the students words and the works of art that
they produced through their collaboration with each other, the moderators of the workshop and
PT displayed consciousness, critical thinking, desire, readiness, excitement and brilliance. I
have to give props to my brother Derrick Brent who made these kids shine during a warm-up
and Tiana Johnson who was a superhero in helping the groups develop their own originality and
ideas for their final performances. The results of the workshop were glorious in my eyes.
BASELINE #2: Being in an environment different from my own reminds me of who I am. In good
ways and in difficult ways. I learned that the Hawaiian Renaissance was influenced by African
American culture in way of music and resistance while having lunch with the artist who ran the
workshop. They told us that hip hop was the vessel they used to to do their work as activist. I
learned through my own research online, after their introduction to the subject, that the
renaissance was in-part inspired by the civil rights movement of the sixties. I was proud and
reminded of the struggle of my people that helps me exist the way I exist today. The reminder
makes me grateful. But, being in Hawaii also helped me to see the world from yet another
perspective in learning some of its history. When I see people of color as the majority population
in a specific environment in America, I’m always curious to what the story behind the community
is. The histories are always different, most times under-told, but vital to our story as people with
shared histories that are full of omission. I learned that Hawaii was annexed in 1898 as a US
territory and granted statehood in 1959. The takeover of the state was hostile, leaving heavy
casualties of the Native peoples of Hawaii who are now only ten percent of the population in
their home according to the 2010 Census. What hurts about this, for me, is that there was yet
another Native people that I didn’t learn about in school who had their home occupied and
colonized. Why wasn’t this a part of my U.S. History lessons? Every day that I live as a person
of color, I learn more and more of the injustices that have happened and are still happening to
other peoples of color. Because of these injustices, one of my life’s missions is to continue
devoting my time, conversations and energies to causes for the advancement of all people and
learning diverse histories.
HEADLINE #3s: In the midst of being angry from all of the injustice, there was beauty and
peace in the nature of Hawaii and the art of theatre. But, all of that can be Googled. My praise
for Hawaii as a tourist won’t be much different than the ones you can read at the bottom of
Google Maps. Having stood atop Mount Diamond Head able to see the vastness of the sea and
lush of the island, it reminds me that we are but grains of sands in the grand scheme of things
and make me grateful to exist in this miracle.
BASELINE #3: The thing I’ve come to most admire about the nature of Hawaii is the trees.
Every other tree in Hawaii on the island of O’ahu is different. It beautiful. Hawaii has a climate
that is able to sustain and nurture a plethora of trees. That is amazing to me. My wish is that we
create a social atmosphere that mirrors Hawaii’s diverse landscape of trees. That we can one
day create a space in our country where people of all races, religions and cultures can thrive
and flourish in society, where people can be unhindered from advancement in any aspect of life.
Check out Daniel on Progress Theatre Official Site HERE
Headlines AND Baselines
Soon I will be done / with the troubles of the world / troubles of the world / TROUBLES OF THE WORLD / Soon I will be done / Troubles of the world / I’m going home to live with God No more weepin’ and wailin’ / No more WEEPIN’ and wailin’ / No more weepin’ and WAILIN’ / I’m going home to live with my Lord.
From my perspective, the world is in a convoluted place. On a normal day, I experience a mass plethora of information amongst the usual functions in my day. Just this morning, I’ve experience the following in a 5-hour period.
Watch Two African American women debating Roland Martin on how Donald Trump is going to change the country and should be president at the Republican National Convention; backing republican presidential candidate with every fiber of their being when asked, “Where’s the plan for Donald Trump dealing with black folks?” To me, they didn’t provide a clear answer to the question and it confuses me how some African Americans can support a candidate who has publicly expressed his lack of value for minorities.
Hear news on 20 girls being jailed in a one-room jail in Leesburg, GA in 1963 for participating in Civil Rights marches. The youngest girl incarcerated in this jail was 12 years old. Coordinating technical and company schedules for a touring theatre company for several cities at once.
Watching a black grandmother grieve on national television over the death of her 7 year old granddaughter who was shot in the head by a police officer while she was asleep.
Watching a black man get shot by a police officer while on the ground with his hands up.
Watching, reading and hearing about innumerable counts of African American deaths by police officers for various, unjustifiable reasons.
Listening to Chrisette Michele, funk music and old school R&B jams.
Watching a video of a 14 year old, 8th grade white boy preach about white privilege.
Watched a very cute video where a young white father dance battles his toddler.
Watched the Steve Harvey show on TV and saw a story of a white officer buying a car-seat for a black man who couldn’t afford one due to wage garnishments.
Hear about the various and increasing attacks of terror by ISIS.
Planning for finances and investments.
Coordinating marriage counseling and planning a wedding.
Keeping up with my family, friends and loved ones by hanging out, phone & video calls.
Preparing policy documents, supervising and preparing for a theatre season at my 9 to 5.
Read an article about global warming.
Support the arts by attending shows and community arts education classes.
Finding anti-oppressive ways to educate and discipline children. Also, still trying to figure out if those two even make sense together.
Keeping up with the latest music and being disappointed.
For me, this is a heavy amount of information. I feel so overwhelmed at times that I have to shut of everything in my house and just be still. It is said that home is where you’re supposed to have peace, but when I turn on my TV or look on my Facebook, all of those problems come into my personal space.
My mentor says, “Where ever we enter, our identities enter with us.” So, when I watch television or hear any news, my identities are relative to the headlines and baselines. I cannot separate myself from the issues of my people because I’m a part of the community and with community comes responsibility. I feel that we do ourselves and our people disservice when we remove ourselves from our identities and each identities issues. Every voice and every person is needed to make the change. But, with this load of information increasing I find myself not being about to focus on what I need to focus on at a given time.
I can be at work, but I’m thinking about the cops who got shot in downtown Dallas; 7 minutes from where I work. As I drive to work and back home every day, I’m looking at roof-tops out of paranoia. My progress is slowed on coordinate for the touring company because I’m using my “available time” to plan a wedding and arrange marriage counseling. When I’m grocery shopping and see a garbage bag sitting at the end of an aisle, I get suspicious because I’m thinking it could be a bomb with all of the terror attacks that’ve been happening. I could go on and on about how all this information affect my day, but I also think about how it affects others.
With everything that’s happening, it doesn’t seem farfetched that someone would want to drive their car off a cliff and end it all. It has happened to people who haven’t been equipped to manage stress or have no outlets to process the millions of things that could hit us at once. We’re tired of grieving over the bodies of our kin that left us too soon. We’re becoming numb to the pain from the news of more black bodies, unjustly crucified, being added to history’s pile. We don’t know how to cope or where to start to make the change. We’re losing focus.
My people, I’m trying to keep focused. Focused on making the most of my time and energies for the betterment of my life, my family, my community, my people, this country and our world. And from recent conversations with people in my circle, I’m not the only one.
Sometimes I don’t know how to cope, most of the time I can’t focus and I ain’t got how to contribute to the cause of progress in our communities it all figured out . . . That’s a work in process. But, here is what I know:
Any chance I get to educate a black child on life, self-love, discipline and black history, I take it. No matter where I am.
Any chance I get to speak up against racism & bigotry, be a positive & productive voice for my community or be of service to those in need, I take it.
Any chance I get to listen to the wisdom of the elders, I take it.
Any chance I get to listen to the wisdom of the young, I take it. I’ve learned lessons from 5 year olds; wisdom has no restrictions.
Any chance I get to learn about ways to create progress in our community and society, I take it. Then, I take action.
Any chance I get to be in a room, I make sure I speak and that my voice is heard.
Any chance I get to check my male privilege, I take it.
Any chance I get to spend time with my family / loved ones and tell them I love them, I take it.
I make time to take care of myself and have ME time because it’s necessary!
Any chance I get to say, “Thank you, GOD!” I take it.
Any chance I get to share a life experience of mine that could help another, I stop, and take it.
Any time I get overwhelmed, I call someone I love and I talk about it. I don’t let it build up.
Any chance I get, I go and see diverse artworks and art forms from different communities.
Any chance I get to eat healthy, I take it.
When I see a few pieces of trash on the ground in a relatively clean area, I pick it up and discard it properly.
Any chance I get to recycle, I take it.
Any chance I get to walk through life constantly thinking and being aware, I take it.
See, activism and making change in the world doesn’t always look like a protest in the street or a filibuster on Capitol Hill. It is also the small acts that we commit in day-to-day life that contribute to quantum leaps. In this life, day and time it gets hard. I know. We got bill to pay, work to do, and kids / elders to feed or tend to but we want to help and make a difference.
I want to encourage all of us to do what we can. To take the time to commit those small acts that induce change. Be activist in ways that you are able to in your community. Life is short and soon, some of us will be gone. We have to pave the way for future generations and to do that we have to be healthy, positive, and proactive and focused.
Let’s do what we can, when we can. The most important thing is that we do it. And even more importantly, we have to do it together (that means: Latinos, Asians, Blacks, Whites, Mixed-Race, Male, Female, Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Transgender, Bi-Sexual. . . All of us).Race Male, Female, Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Transgender, Bi-Sexual. . . All of us).
Let’s commit to progress, self-care, community and activism.
Peace, Love and Blackness
Today’s world frightens me.
I’m sure there may others may share my sentiment. I also understand that there are those who could feel otherwise.
There are people in this world who have limited access to news and media outlets as many of us in America have grasp of, so they may have a different opinion. But, I think if those same people saw the world through the lenses I look through every day they would come to the same conclusion. Or, would they?
I was recently in Knoxville on business and I met a White gentleman after one of the shows I’d just finished coordinating. We were on the subject of empathy and the following things was pointed out as it pertains to White people’s reaction to institutional crimes against Blacks:
“There is a lack of empathy shown by some Whites in the play, and in society, for people of color who not only live nearby, but are an intimate part of their lives.”
He had some interestingly complicated thoughts about this statement, and later wrote a blog about it. This White male was an elder who grew up in Alabama during the Scottsboro Boys trial. This was an infamous trial where nine black teenagers were falsely accused of raping two White American women on a train in 1931.
He says in his blog:
“When I was growing up, there was virtually no mention of the Scottsboro case in my town; although, I later found that people all over the world were quite familiar with it. People around the world supported the “Scottsboro Boys” and it was a major cause celebre with wide publicity. But not in my hometown. Our Alabama history books were silent about the case. How many of the store owners, farmers, and town leaders whom I saw everyday had played a role in trying to legally lynch the nine youth? That part of my personal history was blank. After I left the South I learned volumes about Southern history, White and Black, that was denied to me. In order to train people as racist, not only the history of the oppressed must be censored, but the history of the oppressor as well.”
It was reading this statement that opened up a whole new world for me; and not in the way that it was put in the Disney’s Aladdin. As a young Black male I spend a lot of time thinking about, deconstructing and combatting the systematic oppression and racism, which are direct descendants of systems of slavery, in my day to day life. I’ve always thought of oppression being a one-way street. That as the oppressed, I have to climb to equality versus pulling it down to me . . . if that makes sense. It was gentleman’s revelations that helped me understand, that both parties, the oppressor and the oppressed, have to rise and fall from their places in the social rung in order to get to this dream of equality. First complacency must be overcome.
I’ve witnessed fellow Black have the “ain’t no way out” mentality toward society and so they choose to continue to live in subpar conditions and accept less than average housing and services to accompany their livelihood. To reach this dream of freedom and equality, not only do the oppressed have to suspend myths of inferiority, but the oppressors have to suspend the myths of superiority.
This gentleman stated in his blog:
“My first memories as a young boy include socialization into this racist system. I was being taught to live in the society I was given. Yet, as a young boy I was not only socialized to be a little racist (not a violent one, however) but also to understand that as a mature white male I was to look down the social ladder at females and children as well. White men were to make decisions. Women, children and people of color were to obey. We were better than them, less emotional, more wise, more capable.”
He speaks for himself and his revelations in this blog, not for all white people, as he states in his blog. But, these past two weeks on another business trip I’ve witnessed this to be true for more than just my friend in Knoxville.
While on another business trip the past two weeks, faced the dragon that was institutional racism. I went into a space as a manager of an ensemble, Black, professional, knowledgeable and 23 years old. For the White people who ran the theatre I was hosted in, those identities equaled threat. At every interaction or request I was combatted with microcosm of passive aggressive responses that noted why I could get what I was asking for. Even after we’d come to agreement on how to move forward, combat would reconvene about minute details. I was belittled and talked to like I didn’t understand English and witness my other co-workers being communicated to in the same manner.
Of course, these things didn’t last. Professionally, I delivered a clear attitude of intolerance and unacceptability of the way I and my staff were being treated. I met them where they were mentally, picked up what I needed from my interactions with them and let them carry their own foolery. Even though I had the strength to combat this racism, it still had an effect on me . . . it hurt.
While in the dressing room at the closing of our rehearsal day, this hurt took over my emotions and I began to cry. I had to let it hurt. In front of my ensemble I began to bawl. The hurt came from shock. I didn’t know why that was happening to me or what it was. It took the wisdom of the ensemble and our director to help me understand what was happening to me and that I also had to let it hurt in order to heal. That was a pain that I didn’t want to feel and it hurt as much as it did because I didn’t expect it. It was a frightening moment.
Our Knoxville friend stated further into his blog that:
“A lesson that must be taught burgeoning caretakers of a racist system is the ability to empathize with others must be removed . . . In order for an oppressive system to exist, not only does something have to be done “to” the oppressed, but something has to be done “to” the oppressor. The oppressor is making a deal with the devil. I will trade my ability to be empathetic toward others, i.e. squash my ability to “feel”, in order to gain material wealth and goods. I will train my young White boys to believe falsely that they are better than any other people so that they can gain and manage material wealth with no concern for others.”
I hold this truth to be self-evident . . . Like my Knoxville friend, I’m not saying this is the case for all White men / women in America, but I’m saying that they exist. And this past week, I had the both fortunate and unfortunate opportunity to meet the dehumanized oppressor. Unfortunate for obvious reasons, but I say fortunate because there are red lotus in the swamp.
This experience was a catalyst for me to know how to identify and combat psychologically engrained, passive aggressive racism. It took fire to bring rain- a new wound for the old one to properly heal. My fright has turned to faith.
Faith in my ability to stand up to various forms of injustice.
Faith in my own strength.
Faith in my voice to stand up for others who have not crossed the same roads I have.
Faith in my path.
Faith in my abilities.
Faith in my knowledge.
Faith that because I had this experience – change will come and I will have something to do with it.
So, here is what I know now that I didn’t know before. It is okay to be afraid of the unexpected and the unknown. What is important is that we take those surprises and do something productive with our knowledge. Let us not let fear root us in place, but allow it to serve as a catalyst for positive change in our lives.
Allow fear to ignite our faith.