Joy Brooke-Fairfield: A Play Sets the Stage for A Revolution
Joy Brooke-Fairfield is a theater, film/media,
gender/sexuality and latinx professor at Rhodes College. Joy believes that putting on a theater production allows one to strengthen cooperative muscles, and perhaps most importantly highlight the necessity of difference in the completion of a goal or vision. Joy muses that at some point the real truth that we’re all wildly and dramatically different than one another became a bad thing and violent, normalizing forces of society squish us to all be the same. This is problematic because a vibrant society, like plays cannot be produced without actors harboring different strengths playing different roles.
Celebrating diversity is kind of a catchphrase now, but if we were actually able to bring about a society where every person’s unique differences were able to be seen and held and celebrated, I think we’d get a lot farther along towards a kind of peaceful coexistence. She thinks that individuals need to use whatever lights us up to fight back and the revolution will coalesce in the crucible of our difference: Joy doesn’t like to cook, but just because you won’t likely find her at “feed the people” campaigns doesn’t mean she doesn’t think they shouldn’t be fed. What lights her up is art, theater, and film.
Joy came to Memphis to teach radical ways of interpreting these mediums in 2016. Up until then, she had only lived on the West and East coasts, though had hopes for Memphis as she had participated in activism and community organization in both New Orleans and St. Louis, and felt that the activist spirit there had a certain “warmth” to it that she hadn’t found on the coasts. She had, however, some trepidation instilled in her by her many friends who questioned how she would deal with living somewhere “so conservative.” Initially, her fears were slightly minimal as she began to settle in to her apartment in Midtown, Memphis. When she settled into her apartment in Midtown, she saw Hillary signs everywhere. And she remembers feeling a big sign of relief. She thought if Hillary has the hearts of Memphis, of the middle of the country, then we’ll be just fine. About a week before the election Joy decides to go out East and she saw the opposite, Trump billboards forever.
So she went back to Midtown and phone banked in the final days of the election. Reality set in and Joy quickly realized the distinct difference in demographics. It was disheartening to her. Her phone calls ended up with a lot of discouraging comments like go trump or well a simple hanging up. was ostensibly calling Tennessee Democrats, and a lot of those phone calls were very rude, and ended with a lot ‘Go Trump or simply hanging up with no response.
She recalls spending Election night at a fellow queer faculty members house, and her joke was that she smoked more cigarettes that night than she smoked during the entire Obama presidency. She lamented that the next day her lungs felt the way her heart felt, heavy.
As a liberal educator, Joy admits that working at Rhodes occasionally has it’s challenges. She remarks “its primarily a white institution that’s steeped in decades of white supremacy” but also goes on to say that it has actually been a good place to better understand the multiple intersecting dynamics that occur in that and similar institutional environments.
I’ve met a lot of great students, professors, and staff members who helped me contextualize this place.”
Joy continues to advocate for the promising intersectionality of our differences actually make a big difference in the way we appreciate the beauty of the human experience.