The “Brick:Brick” project brings together actors, directors, and choral ensembles to tell a personal, story-based story to 16-year-old Walrell Richardson. In the first episode of “Every Day Is Frightening”, our protagonist, Walrell, discovers his abusive father is working for Walmart. When Walrell narrates, with a haunting “hear me roar” at the beginning, he reveals that his father is now working for Walmart and two weeks earlier, he had received an email from his father, saying he needed to move out of the family home and there would be no phone service. He says this after his father physically assaulted him.
A few weeks later, our hero Walrell receives the terrifying news from his school that he is now being suspended, and in a desperate bid to get his father back, Walrell is sexually assaulted by a male classmate. As he tells his story, we hear from the person who originally assaulted him, a closeted classmate who says that for the first few weeks of this mass assault, the boy had only touched him, but a few days into it, he added more pressure, so that the boy was forced to put his pants down and proceeded to sexually assault him, all the while the room is filled with confused voices in the background.
As we listen to the story, our eyes move around the room, along with our anger, anger and guilt. We feel frustrated and perplexed, and would like to cry and scream but know that doing so would only make the incident appear even more disgusting, maybe even worse. We also know that we are lucky, that the majority of Americans, despite what others might say, are not criminals like Walrell’s father.
Walrell cannot leave, he has been suspended and he will miss school, and with summer leaving, he will be at home alone, trying to cope with the consequences of his father’s situation.
Anxiety. Worries. Fear. Anger. Regret. Defensiveness. Self-pity. A child who has experienced this experience immediately feels emotionally and physically drained.
Dr. Laura Beth Everett, the psychologist who I worked with throughout this process said that whenever you witness something, the emotion is triggered, and your body reacts. But she adds that there is also an attempt to control the reaction, and as you try to control your body’s reaction, you will feel hopeless and separated.
Because we felt helpless watching the project unfold, we tried to find ways to control our reactions, and became participants in the film, watching it, as well as having a voice. For many people, this is difficult, because emotions are often associated with shame.
But as we looked at this subject matter, we decided to find ways to disassociate from our feelings and to make this “wrong” wrong instead.
We created a special sort of shame for our parents’ situation. We didn’t want to feel guilty, we would rather disassociate shame from the situation and instead create the incorrect shame. We felt bad, and we did feel bad, but because we consciously created this wrong, we were able to experience relief.
We hope that this episode will help others in similar situations recognize the underlying discomfort which comes with thinking that everything in our world is horrible. It seems almost impossible that the most powerful economic institution in the world has such a dark side.
It is our hope that the reaction of working as Walmart employees will be different. We would like to demonstrate to future workers that they can be happy and successful at work, regardless of how they earn their living.