In honor of Black History Month, I want to do something a little different. Most of us are familiar with brilliant individuals that shaped Black history and the lives of people of color. For this post, I wanted to focus on something a little different. As an organization driving to ignite change for students of color in the performing arts I want to shed some light on just that.
Introducing Kerry Kerr, a 21-year-old junior dual majoring in theater and psychology at Bethany College in West Virginia. He is an officer of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity, Student Government Association, and a student employee in the office of the college president. Kerry has always been the creative type, often called “expressive” by everyone on campus. Lead by his creative nature, Kerry wanted to study something in the performing arts. Unfortunately, his parents were not on the same page and wanted him to study something more “serious”, so he chose psychology. It wasn’t until his first semester grades came out that his parents even knew he was a dual major. Kerry proved himself by earning a place on the dean’s list and continues that academic success every semester since. Seeing this, his parents are more understanding of his passion as it was evident that he could thrive.
As a part of the theater program at Bethany, all theater majors are required to be a part of one play each semester, as a performer or a tech. always wanted to be on the stage. In his early performing career, he experienced a slight sense of stage fright. Kerry wanted to be on the stage, but just not in the leading roles. As he continued at Bethany, the older students graduated and it became more difficult for him to hide from the larger roles. Kerry attempted to step into those roles but felt forced due to growing expectations. There were incidents when the director or assistant director questioned his dedication. Since he was very active on campus, it was difficult to be as present as he would have liked, but he knew that did not define his dedication to the art.
Kerry reflected on a pivotal moment in his career when he was asked to fill the role of the slave. He realized that he was always going to be cast in the role of the minority. Part of him understood that there is a small number of African American actors in the program but there was a lingering feeling that he was the butt of a joke. He expressed that while receiving performance notes, he felt that he was told how to be black. This was when he came to terms that he needed some kind of a break.
During his break he had the opportunity to fall back in love with theater. Kerry reflected on how the production process is difficult but the pure joy and sense of accomplishment he feels when he finishes a performance is amazing. He always strives to evoke emotion from the audience. During his break, he also learned that hardship is not necessary for success, but sacrifice is. Although he has many additional responsibilities on campus, theater is the one please that he has the freedom of self-expression and to create his own definition of art. Kerry has embraced all of his experiences both the positive and the negative because he believes that it has given him a realistic snap shot of what his future will hold.
This month is not only for the recognition of our past, but a time to celebrate the people presently in our lives who come from a shared history and look forward to our futures.