Why People of Color Should Be At the Wild Goose Festival – Melvin Bray

Why People of Color Should Be At the Wild Goose Festival – Melvin Bray May 11, 2011

Why People of Color Should Be At the Wild Goose Festival
by Melvin ‘The Token Space-holder’ Bray

My appeal is simple.  People of color must involve themselves with the Wild Goose Festival otherwise the color balance in all the photos will be off!

Yes, seriously, I believe that in due season the Wild Goose will change the landscape of faith imagination in America, even as the Greenbelt Festival has done so in the UK over the last 30 years.  There was a time in the not so distant past when people of color were conveniently excluded from “mainstream” undertakings such as this. Out of habitual exclusion arose identity movements and addendum politics―our refusal to be forever ignored.  The problem is that after years of African-American, Asian-American, First Nation and other “hyphenated” studies that have taken those disposed into a deeper appreciation of diversity, we’re loathe to admit that our efforts have not distributed the treasures of a pluralistic heritage nearly as broadly as proponents had hoped.  With deep gratitude for the gifts of “The Struggle” in all its wonderfully myriad expressions (without which we would not be at the borders of New Possibility) as people of color, we presently find ourselves on the brink of a most fortunate opportunity that escapes the apprehension of many.  There is now appetite, yea even longing, for a telling of a holistic American faith story in which our stories are integral, not addendum, not prop.

If I’ve framed a good enough shot, you should have that silly grin on your face that people have when reminded by a true picture of an oft-referenced but misappropriated dream.  I believed we have actually arrived at the moment  the social experiment of integration anticipated but America wasn’t quite ready to embody 40-some-odd years ago.


However, I realize things could just as easily devolve into yet another forty years of (even self-imposed) desert-dwelling marginalization.  Martin Luther King, Jr., may have shamed America into confessing the sins of inequality but with the election of President Obama there has been plenty of talk of what “real Americans” lost in the exchange.  The realist in me recognizes that there is just as much potential in this moment for regression as there is for breakthrough.  And the cynic in me can only shake his head for what, listening to Glenns and Sarahs, often seems the likely choice.  Yet we―people of faith and color, love, goodwill and every combination of the same―have a precedented opportunity to tip likelihood decidedly toward a story of American faith, justice and the arts that makes room for everyone.  It won’t include everyone, sadly.  Many will self-select out.  But that is very different from not being invited.  So I personally invite you.

Now I know the idea of running around in the woods with random people, most of whom may not look like you (thus seeming to have little in common), doesn’t strike everyone as the best visual of a good time.  For black folk, by example, camping doesn’t just mock the homeless, it can feel a little too close to the Kunta Kente experience than we want to be.  Still the best photos generally involve a little discomfort (at least that’s what the guy at Glamor Shots once told me), and if that includes making some (a minority, I’m sure) of the beige folks in event snapshots a little self-conscious by our showing up in droves, so be it.  Besides, if you don’t come, I’m gonna be real identifiable in group pics.  But I’ll keep holding this space until I see you.

Melvin Bray is a devoted husband, committed father, learner, teacher, writer, storyteller, lover of people, connoisseur of creativity, seeker of justice, and believer in possibilities. As founder of Kid Cultivators, he lives, loves, and dreams with friends in Atlanta, Georgia. We’re sure Melvin would want you to know that this weekend is the final weekend to get Advance Rate tickets to the Wild Goose Festival. Prices go up this Monday, May 16th.

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