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“Some New Splintering”: Okwui Okpokwasili on the US Presidential Election

When the Walker commissioned Okwui Okpokwasili to create her new newest work, Poor People’s TV Room—a work deeply rooted in her thinking around race, gender, and her Nigerian-American identity—it wasn’t known that one of her January 19–21 performances would fall on the day of President-elect Trump’s inauguration. In light of this development, we invited Okpokwasili to share her reflection on […]

Okwui Okpokwasili. Photo: Peter Born

Okwui Okpokwasili. Photo: Peter Born

When the Walker commissioned Okwui Okpokwasili to create her new newest work, Poor People’s TV Room—a work deeply rooted in her thinking around race, gender, and her Nigerian-American identity—it wasn’t known that one of her January 19–21 performances would fall on the day of President-elect Trump’s inauguration. In light of this development, we invited Okpokwasili to share her reflection on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. 

For me, this is a moment in our nation’s history where hope threatens to be replaced by fear, curiosity replaced by ignorance, and where the value of an individual is not measured by their commitment to fighting for justice and the well-being of those who are suffering, but measured by their ability to extract profit from that suffering, driven by a self-interest that is staggering, egregious, and amazing. 

So I wake up every day with a new break in my heart, a new scar. And the only comfort that I have right now is that there is a vast community of people I know and do not know, who are also waking up every day with some new splintering. And many of them work every day to keep from normalizing racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, threats to the fourth estate, a raging and unfettered capitalism, climate-change deniers and an emerging kakistocracy. It is with them that I join the ragged shards of my heart to build a bigger and more resilient heart that continues the work of building greater empathy, of seeing in each other the promise of our future, and inspiring in each other the will to work to build that future. 

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