Sunday, March 29, 2015

Radiate Your Righteousness | TSA Performance

Your serenity is in the hands of the next fool who makes you angry.
` Eric W. Springer, Esq.
Eric W. Springer, Esq.


My center of calm carries me along the eddies of my life.  I try to stay with remembering that what is mine remains mine until I give it away. It has been almost two weeks since I received an early morning phone call saying my daughter was in a coma about seven hours from where I live.  I drove down for the first few days. I stayed until I realized, there was not much more to do other than pray and wait.  Her Godmother too my place at her bedside. She woke up. Next thing I knew, I was flying back down to my daughter’s bedside. 

As a performance artist, I sometimes view life as an opportunity to perform conceptual pieces in front of unintentional artists.  Today’s airports are the largest theatrical venues on the planet. The TSA have brought conceptual abstract theatrical performance happenings to whole new level. Every time I fly, it comes with a sense of anticipation and excitement to participate in the longest nationwide run of a massively successful show entitled “Security Checkpoint.” 

My character is somewhat autobiographical and draws upon the best character traits of  my elders and ancestors. My grandmother’s imitable grace and strong softness.  My mother’s regal command and stance.  My father’s unflinching and persistent belief in the  rule of law and those promises made with the framing of America that have yet to be achieved.  

Because I often travel with my young son, I have not been fortunate enough to do my big solo performance during “Security Checkpoint.”  The solo I have been promised is a scene called “Opt Out” wherein my character refuses to enter the AIT machine, otherwise known as, The Irradiation Station, The Nudie Scanner or Backscatter.  I have had a chance to perform “Touch My Hair, Change Your Gloves”  and “Modest Clothing Is Suspicious.” However, thanks to Malaika Singleton, Novella Coleman, an attorney with the ACLU, the TSA has agreed to stop profiling Black women's hair.  Therefore, I am unlikely to act as a supporting role in this aspect of the production.

However, these have only been minor roles which only ever receive curious ~ often White Supremacy Fear Reinforcement glances ~ from our unintentional audiences.  
I view the opportunity to perform this scene as a perfect intersection of my career as a performer and arts educator. This section of the show is about the affirmation of our civil liberties and is intended to do community outreach, education and inspire nation building based upon our Constitution.

Opportunities present themselves when it is time.  Not at the time of our choosing.  But, this trip it was Oh Lucky Me. It seemed not one passenger was avoiding the Backscatter this trip. And since I was flying solo, the long anticipated showtime had arrived.

I shuffled docilely down the line.  One by one, I removed all dangerous and suspicious items from my person.  Shuffle. Take off jacket.  Shuffle.  Remove sweater. Shuffle. Remove shoes.  By the time I reached the scanner belt,  I placed all my items in their appropriate bins.  Removed my laptop. Placed it in its separate bin.  Then, I whipped off my glorious head wrap to let my long dreadlocks tumble down my back. 

Me: (calmly. imperiously. graciously. loudly.) It is against my deeply held religious beliefs to go through that machine. I will require alternative screening.
TSA agent looks at me strangely. 

Me: Alternative screening. I require it. Thank you. (lookity look to let her know I am thankful and that she is dismissed.)

TSA AGENT; OPT OUT! We have an Opt Out.

Me: (smiles and nods to the person behind me. loudly.) All that nasty unnecessary radiation is not for our greater good.  We’re Americans. We’re lucky. We have choices.

Passenger: Oh.  (fearful furtive eyes glance at the scanner.)

TSA Agent: Please come over here and stand on the mat. My mark is a rubber mat with to yellow footprints outlined. 

Me: (to Passenger) Have an awesome trip! Be safe. (to Agent) Yes, Ma’am.

Dance Sequence ~  I glide regally towards the mark. Smile. Pivot. Left foot back to left footprint. Right foot back to right footprint. Look Agent in the eye. Smile. Float arms gently to sides to confirm my placement. Tip of the chin in the minimal affirmative acknowledgement. Place arms behind my back. Smile, concerned, loving, victorious at passengers going through The Irradiation Station. 

A young, slender, beautiful, AsianTSA agent bustles over to me. 

Beautiful Agent: Ma’am, this way. 

Me: (raise eyebrows)

Beautiful Agent: This way, please.

Me: Oh! Yes!  Thank you. 

(More Gliding) We stop at the X Ray machine to collect my belongings.

Beautiful Agent: Which are yours?

Me: (leisurely, commanding gesture as if to a hotel porter) The laptop. The purse and jumpers. The rucksack. 

Beautiful Agent: Can I put the laptop in this bin? 

Me: (loudly, kindly, matronly) Well, as I understand the rules and regulations, the laptop is supposed to be in its own bin.

Beautiful Agent: (as if eager to please) Oh. Yes. It is. But, I have have to carry it over there. Can I put it in this bin?

Me: Whatever makes all of this easier for you dear.

Beautiful Agent: Okay. Then, I’ll put it in here.

Me: As you wish. 

Beautiful Agent: (gathers my things.) This way. 

Me: (smiling nodding at other passengers trying to scramble their things back together.  The Random Passengers look on with curiosity.  They glance at the Backscatter.  They furrow their brows.  I am not being treated like a criminal. It seems very confusing to them.)

Beautiful Agent: This way, please.

Me: Right.

(more gliding this time to another mat. )

Beautiful Agent: (places my things on a counter.) Would you like to do this in a private room?

Me: Well, of course not. (chuckle) There should be nothing private about this. 

Beautiful: Uh. Right. Using the backs of my hands, I’m going to pat you down.... in some sensitive areas .... 

Me: (chuckles) My only sensitive area anymore is my old leg.

Beautiful Agent: (shocked and surprised) Oh! Is there an area I should avoid? 

(Gently, I raise the hem of my skirt. and show her a long scar down my shin.)

Beautiful Agent: (flustery) Oh, okay. Using only the backs of my hands I pat you down. I’ll ask you to put one foot forward and then the other. 

(I nod and smile in the manner of one who loves children and the way they do go on and on sometimes. Precious.)

Me: Very well, then. (direct eye contact)

Beautiful Agent: Please raise your... Oh! Let me change my gloves.

Me: Excellent idea. Well done.

Startled, she changes her gloves.

Beautiful Agent: Oh. Thanks. Ummm.  Okay. Please, raise your arms out to the sides.  
(I give her ballet arms.) 
Oh, sorry. Palms up. 
(lovely slow rotation to a position which feels as if I am opening to receive the balm of the heavens. She begins patting me down.)
Place your right foot forward. (Gentle Pat, pat, pat.)

Me: Oh! This like Yoga-Massage! 

Her hands freeze. 

I smile and wink at passengers glancing at me. I can tell they are having a hard time understanding what they see. I am receiving attention criminals typically get, yet, the agent is the one who appears deferential and servile.

Gentle pat, pat, pat. I have a sudden realization that if I were still in my 20’s, this whole experience would have made me a little wet.  Quite suddenly, she stops. She doesn’t want to do this. It’s her job. 

Beautiful Agent: Okay. You’re all done. 

Me: You have an awesome day.

Beautiful Agent: Uh. Okay. You too. Where are you going?

Me: My daughter is in a coma. I am going to her. 

Beautiful Age: (stricken look) Oh! I’m so sorry.

Everything can change so quickly. Everything. 
Stay now. Stay serene. Stay right. It's all you can really do.

Even with my daughter laying in a coma hours away, I have to choose the promise that our Constitution makes to us. Nothing. Nothing should be so important as safeguarding that which is rightfully ours. 


When you radiate your righteousness, those who do wrong shame themselves. If they are good people, they may express remorse. If they are not, they will show you anger.  But, it is up to you to give them a choice about who they want to be in that moment of time.  Opting Out of the AIT is my right. I do not have to shout my rights from the rooftops with anger and fury.  I simply have to claim them as my own. 

And hopefully, the unintentional audience benefitted in some way from this performance.

this coping mechanism moment brought to you through the sponsorship of  NDN Jr. & the INS Miracle Circle.

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