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3 Hole exists to support and accessibly distribute the work of artists. This means we’re committed to a world in which everyone has time for self-expression and leisure. To get there, we need to advocate for policies that enable human flourishing—policies like affordable housing, single-payer healthcare, abolishing ICE and the police, well-funded community arts programs, and tuition-free higher education.
We’re keeping it short today because we want to highlight our interview with Jabari Brisport, who is running for New York State Senate in our own district in Brooklyn. We were curious about his journey from theater into politics, and his words left us cheering!!! We are so excited to share this feeling with you. Our conversation is below.
(If you live in New York, you have until June 16th to request your absentee ballot for the primary. If you’re curious about other local candidates we’ve endorsed, check out this interview between Rachel and Phara Souffrant Forrest, who is running for New York State Assembly. If you don’t live in Brooklyn but want to support these campaigns, you can volunteer and donate here!)
We LOVE this whole interview with Jeremy O. Harris—and not just because he calls us “one of the best theatre presses around” (thank you!!!). Read the conversation to learn about inclusive seating, the balance of frustration and patience needed for fundamental change in the theater, and how to trust your voice. As Jeremy says, “The biggest thing is knowing that you already have it. The thing you’re looking for, the affirmation you’re thinking that I might be able to give you in this quote—you already have it.”
Check out this instagram account for a list of venues across the country that are opening up their lobbies and bathrooms for folks participating in protests and actions in support of Black lives. Follow us on instagram to meet up for actions in NYC!
3 Hole Press
A CONVERSATION WITH JABARI BRISPORT
3 HOLE PRESS: Jabari, why did you become interested in theater?
JABARI BRISPORT: I did two productions in Middle School. The first was a theatrical adaptation of The People Could Fly in 7th grade. I’ll never forget my one line: “To be a slave: to be owned, as a car, house, or table is owned.” I saw the power of theater for social commentary and as a young black man coming into my own, I really connected with the material. The second was a musical called Starmites. I had so much fun singing and dancing in that show and fell in love with the knowledge that I could bring others joy.
We are drawn to your career path as holding some key for us about how the theater—or perhaps its rejection—connects to a sense of civics. Tell us about why you went from an actor to a candidate for NY State Senate.
Art, in all its forms, is a life line. The theater gave me a voice. Theater taught me how to access the humanity in others and to think in terms of how people ended up where they are.
But with the voice and the perspective that theater gave me, I also felt I needed to step up for my community.
Unfortunately, when you’re involved in activism it’s only a matter of time before you realize that it’s hard to make meaningful change when the people making the laws care more about the profits of billionaires than the needs of our community. That’s why I’m running for office now.
Is there anything you’ve witnessed, specifically as an artist and as an educator, that informs your politics that you’d like to share?
Being a public school teacher in the same area where I grew up means constantly worrying about how the systems that are stacked against us will play out in my student’s lives.
I see how my students are asked to learn at a school that isn’t given the funding for basic supplies - which I buy for them out of my own salary.
I see how my students are asked to learn when they can’t get treatment for illnesses because their families don’t have insurance.
I had one student who just stopped coming to class one day. I found out that his family had suddenly been forced to move out of the neighborhood. Political operatives tend to think the solution to this is getting them a voucher so they can afford to rent in a cheaper area. But what I see is a student ripped away from their support network and transplanted in the middle of a school year.
There is so much about how policies affect people’s real lives that most politicians can’t understand because their lives are too separate from ours.
You’re campaigning for a vacancy tax and a pied-à-terre tax. What have other candidates advocated for and why is your campaign different when it comes to affordable housing?
We are in the midst of a housing crisis so severe that even candidates who are funded by real estate companies can’t deny that fact. Sadly, many candidates, like most in Albany, are trying to pretend that with a little bit of reform, the same systems that created the crisis can solve it.
Housing is human right; yet our current system treats housing as a commodity, which means that our homes become the way that a small group of ultra-wealthy people get richer. The real estate industry is raking in massive profits while more than half of New Yorkers are spending one third of their income on rent.
We need more than small reforms — we need to radically change how our government thinks about housing.
When legislators in Albany passed the Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act last year, it was a first step in that direction and a big victory for tenants across the state. But most of the protections in that act only apply to those in rent stabilized housing. One incredibly important piece of legislation that failed to pass was Good Cause Eviction, which would have protected all tenants from being forced out of their homes just because their lease expires. My main opponent in this race does not support Good Cause Eviction protections and has even worked to speed up the eviction process. Given that our district has 2,000 evictions a year, this is simply unacceptable.
It’s time for laws that make access to a safe home a guarantee for all of us. We can move in that direction by passing Good Cause Eviction, fully funding public housing, and creating community land trusts. We can fund housing protections through a vacancy tax (which would penalize developers who try to profit by leaving properties empty) and a pied-à-terre tax (which would apply to expensive second homes).
Many artists live in New York’s 25th State Senate District and play a role in its gentrification. Can you talk about underlying precarity, which pushes artists to move and also disrupts neighborhoods—and what you hope to see change?
I was born in Bed-Stuy and raised in Prospect Heights, and I’ve seen firsthand the devastating effects of gentrification. Often, we see artists moving into the neighborhood (many of whom were forced out of their previous neighborhoods) labeled as “gentrifiers” as though they are the cause of gentrification. Establishment politicians play into this idea because it takes the blame off their shoulders.
So let’s be clear about something: the cause of gentrification is the systemic treatment of our homes as commodities to be bought and sold for profit. Period.
Gentrification is a deliberate process that brings profit to large landlords, developers, and corporations. Decades of this process has pushed out long-term Black and brown residents, and our representatives are so often responsible for the policies that enable this.
We shouldn’t have to be scared that the presence of art, and transportation access, and parks, and community gardens will drive up costs and force us out. Those things that make land valuable come from the community, not real estate developers. With the political courage to stand up to the real estate industry we can implement policies that recapture that value and reinvest it in our community.
Is there anything else you’d like to say today, especially to the many writers and teachers who read our newsletter?
The stakes for us and for our students are higher than they’ve ever been in my lifetime. But however small we may feel in the face of systems that treat our lives and our students’ lives as less important than corporate profit, when we fight back together in solidarity, I truly believe that we are more powerful than anything the ruling class can imagine.
This is a moment that will define the world for a long time to come. We have to acknowledge ourselves and everyone around us as agents of change—or we will miss the chance to build a future where all people have access to the things they need to survive and thrive.
How do people vote for you if they feel unsafe going to the polls in June?
Voting is never as easy or accessible as it should be - and that is by design. This year unfortunately, there are even more barriers to that process. But that also makes it more important than ever.
EVERYONE is eligible to vote by mail-in ballot this year, but you will first need to apply for an absentee ballot by June 16th. So if you haven't done so already, please take 60 seconds right now to go to nycabsentee.com/absentee.
Most people should choose “Temporary illness or physical disability (including affected/potential of COVID19)” as their reason for requesting a temporary ballot. Once your ballot arrives by mail, you need to send it back no later than June 22.
This is absolutely the best thing you can do right now to make sure your vote counts at this crucial moment in history.
How can people, who are excited about your platforms but aren’t eligible to vote for you, support your campaign?
This is a great question!
One of the best ways you can get involved is to volunteer to phone bank with us, which involves calling voters in the district, spreading the word, and reminding them to vote! It might sound scary, but we have really great conversations with voters and also have a lot of fun together.
Our volunteers are what power this campaign, and they’ll be the ones that make sure we win! You can sign up to help on our campaign website.
Finally, what was the last book you read that you enjoyed?
I read the graphic novel Watchmen because I’d heard people loved the HBO series and I wanted to get a better sense of it. I absolutely loved the dystopian feel, the complex characters, and the deep philosophical questions. What do you do when the people responsible for your safety can’t be trusted? Are a billion lives inherently worth more than a million lives? Are free will and the passage of time merely illusions? It was a great read.
Thank you Jabari!