In May of this year, an innovative experiment took place at Portland, Oregon’s August Wilson Red Door Theater. Producers Kevin Jones and Lesli Mones, set out to change the racial ecology of Portland through the arts by putting on two plays back to back, one from the perspective of people of color, and the other from the perspective of the police. The play due called “Cop Out” and “Hands Up” was a way for them to forge a path of accountability and healing for people of color and the police. Originally only planning to produce five or six shows, the performances were so popular that they had to extend that and even turn some people away.
Why the popularity? We think it struck a similar cord to our work with the PEACE OFFICER identity in police departments around the country. While officers and departments may be cautious at first, the communication inspired by the play as well as by our similar PEACE OFFICER identity is growing as people begin seeing one another as individuals, rather than just the roles they play in society and everyday life. According to the producers, what they demonstrated is that people of color feel unseen, depersonalized and stereotyped. All of this is happening while officers often experience violence, death and daily struggles on the job. Where the play came out was that these are complex issues, where a diversity of viewpoints must be represented in order for compassion to occur on both sides. This is the same as the message of Police2Peace, where we believe that trust can be re-established through compassionate outreach.