On June 1, Griffin Matthews posted a video describing the racism he encountered while working on his musical Witness Uganda (previously titled Invisible Thread). The show is based on the true story of his humanitarian trips to Uganda and his work to fund his nonprofit organization, UgandaProject.
[Summary under the cut]In the video he talks about:
- Being forced out of his role as lead writer and actor after producers had purchased the rights to his work
- Being told by a director that a Black actress was not the right shade to be in Witness Uganda
- Second Stage bringing the cast to perform and talk up the theater's "risky endeavors" in exchange for a donation that never came
- White reviewers criticizing their 20-something actors for looking too old while giving Dear Evan Hansen (starring Ben Platt as a high schooler) a pass; calling a character "Big Mama" when her name was "Rain Lady; singling Griffin out for ad hominems while the all-white producing staff and director were spared, and did nothing to defend him
- Being told by a producer re: a line about being the son of slaves: "Slavery is over. Nobody wants to hear about that." No one in the creative team meeting pushed back.
- How the industry is teeming with racists pretending to be allies
- How white creatives with power claim to love and support Black artists, even buying their work, but do not understand the work or know how to advocate for it: "Her Black experience is strictly about money and profits. She has no real Black friends and has never needed to have them, because that's not part of the equation of rising to the pinnacle of success on Broadway. Think about that. White people literally need not one Black person to become a Broadway sensation, to become a millionaire, to become a Tony winner, to become Broadway history — not one Black person is needed to achieve that. And that is why Broadway is racist."
- Says "If the word 'racist' stings you, it should, because racist behavior has been stinging artists of color since the very beginning. Racism has been stealing our dreams, choking our stories, looting our talent, destroying our bank accounts, and then discarding us when we are no longer valued. And here is the deepest revelation from me: I may never make it to Broadway for simply speaking out against the horrific treatment that I received, and all of the Amy Coopers will be fine."
- Says "Black artists have been keeping a secret from you: We have been performing on stage and off. And we're tired. We are done. I am done. The Great White Way needs a real Black friend immediately."
Today, Griffin posted a letter on Facebook (below) and Instagram calling out Broadway and arts publications for ignoring his statement and the widespread support it received from other Black creatives on and off Broadway.
[Postscript on The Book of Mormon]I should acknowledge that I'm posting this with a username inspired by The Book of Mormon, which Griffin specifically calls out as racist (and at least one cast member from the show has agreed). The show's anti-religion/anti-missionary message did resonate with me, but at the expense of its racist portrayal of Uganda, and I'm sorry for that.
I encourage anyone else who's supported The Book of Mormon through ticket sales in the past and/or who feels strongly about missionaries to donate to No White Saviors, a Ugandan organization that works to address the real and ongoing harm white missionaries do there instead of using it as a ~woke punchline.
Source, 2, 3