In the midst of Black Lives Matter protests, Off-Broadway venues in New York have opened their doors in solidarity with the movement. Open Your Lobby is an initiative that calls on theatres to repurpose their spaces in support of protestors fighting against racism and injustice.
By encouraging theatres to provide a place of rest by opening their lobby doors, the initiative has enabled the Black Lives Matter movement to progress, offering protestors restroom access, water, snacks, phone charging outlets, and basic first aid supplies. The resource also offers a phone number which provides real-time updates to protestors about safe spaces in New York, and supporters have created maps detailing the locations of the theatres.
Open Your Lobby also offers vital information on police conduct, with their Instagram page giving an example of how to interact with police officers. They encourage White and non-Black POC to stand in front of the property and say “I work here and I do not grant you permission to enter. Do you have a warrant?”, whilst exercising their right to record police interaction.
The initiative was forced to remove the NYU Skirball, a cultural centre in downtown Manhattan, from their network after administrators were seen handing out supplies to police. Open Your Lobby commented “the initiative was started to provide resources and physical spaces for protestors, not to serve the force they are protesting against.”
Amongst many safe spaces involved in the scheme, the VORTEX, an artist-owned theatre venue, put out a message for protestors joining the Black Austin Rally, stating they would have a hose ready to wash off tear gas or pepper spray. Another theatre space, the Irondale Ensemble Project, adopted a ‘no questions asked policy’ and made other, more uncommon products available, such as sunscreen, allergy medication, and menstrual products.
More information on volunteering opportunities, flyers, and CDC guidelines for disinfecting public spaces can be found on their website: https://linktr.ee/openyourlobby. The Open Your Lobby initiative provides vital support which enables the protests to continue. In their own words, “you must grasp, listen, and uplift the radical and revolutionary Black experience of this national moment.”