Women to Watch: Tiffany Renee Thompson on Performance Activism in Black Lives Matter
E recently had the chance to catch-up with Tiffany Renee Thompson, NYC-based blactress and an emerging activist of the Black Lives Matter movement. Tiffany uses performance as her tool for social activism in New York City. She recently organized an off-Broadway fundraiser performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the Lower East Side.
E: Tell us about your journey as a performer and activist, who you are, how you define yourself.
Tiffany: I am Tiffany Renee Thompson; young blactress, and freelance artist. I've been performing since I was a little girl. My performance career began in church, and continued on through Middle School and through college. I didn't start my activism in the black community until recently.
E: Can you talk about your involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement?
Tiffany: I started to get involved when I saw how bad things were getting. I'd wake up to see another black person as a hashtag and had to sit through countless videos of police brutality. It was even more painful to see how many people defend the cops and how the legal system has, clearly, failed people of color. I decided I was going to be part of the solution.
E: What inspired you to create your fundraiser performance?
I was really tired of seeing people perform art that didn't speak on what was going on. It felt like self-exaltation and I didn't like that. People watch us on tv, stage, listen to our songs and look our pieces. They talk and make their own thoughts on what message we are trying to send. I also wanted to raise money that would go back into the community. A friend of mine, Romel Jackson, founded the S.T.A.R.S. program. It's a basketball program that also promotes education. So our fundraiser supported S.T.A.R.S.
Why wouldn't we want to send a message of healing and hope? Why wouldn't we use our friends and resources to raise money for a program that supports educating young kids of color?
E: Discuss your performance piece at the Nuyorican cafe.
Tiffany: I sang "I'll Be There" by the Jackson 5. It's a song that most people know and came about during a time when the Civil Rights Movement was prevalent. It's a simple song, but sends a message of hope and reminding people that we are a community.
E: It's significant that you chose the Nuyorican Cafe to exhibit your work. The cafe is known for hosting famous jazz musicians, poets, and theater artists that engage in social empowerment through their art. Apparently, Allen Ginsberg called the Cafe “the most integrated place on the planet." As a performing artist, can you talk about the intersection of activism and performance? Why are the arts in activism important to you?
Tiffany: When you go to protests what do you hear? People chanting/singing while being directed. It's an orchestrated event. The songs from the Civil Rights Movement are some of the first things that come to mind when I envision people marching. The arts are 100% incorporated in activism, whether we know it or not.
To quote Frank Leon Roberts, "Black Lives Matter is an artistic movement." The people who started the Black Lives Matter Movement are artists. We must use our hands, feet, minds and voices to be part of the change.
E: What voices of BLM particularly inspire you?
Tiffany: Honestly, the voices of my peers and the millennials. We all have decided to say the things our parents were afraid to say or the things everyone is thinking, but won't say.
E: How we allies to BLM support the movement?
Tiffany: Speak up. If you hear someone being racist, say something. We can't allow others to think that prejudice is only tolerable when you're not around people of color. Educate yourselves. Stop expecting black people to teach you, do some research and teach yourself.
To follow Tiffany's work, you can find her on instagram @mrsbatman247.