Pink “pussy hats” lined the seats of Ann Arbor’s local venue Neutral Zone on Monday night where over 100 University of Michigan faculty, students and community members gathered to perform and watch performance-based art and comedy acts in a “Not My President’s Day” rally in opposition to the current President Donald Trump.
The rally was organized by Bad and Nasty, an online movement that has organized and planned performance-based rallies at more than 63 locations in four countries, including the U.S. on President’s Day in retaliation against the 2016 election. The movement describes itself as a coalition of activists, artists and concerned citizens who wanted to create spaces where they could express their emotions in light of the election.
Bad and Nasty was created and organized by Art & Design Prof. Holly Hughes. She described how the movement came to exist based on the responses she received from what she called an “idle threat” against Trump she posted on a Facebook page made in the weeks following the election. In the post, she invited all the “Bad Hombres and Nasty Women” — referring to Trump’s dialogue toward undocumented immigrants and women during the election — to take action on President’s Day. Within a day, Hughes said, she couldn’t keep up with the number of people expressing interest in and wanting to participate in the movement.
“By the next morning, there were so many people that wanted to interpret the idea on their own I was moaning, because I couldn’t add them quickly enough to the Facebook group,” Hughes said. “Within a day 2,000 people signed up on our Bad and Nasty website.”
She went on to describe how far the movement has spread and how diverse it is, spanning from a cabaret in Wyoming to an all immigrant poetry-slam in Brooklyn.
University faculty and students performed a majority of the event’s sketches and acts, which ranged from personal journal readings and comedy acts. Many of the actors were involved with the University’s Educational Theatre Company or were a part of the School of Art & Design BFA in Interarts Performance program.
ETC Director Callie McKee was the Master of Ceremonies for the event and performed a recitation of a prose piece she wrote after the election. In it, she describes the emotional response she felt when the candidate she had campaigned for lost. In a compelling, yet comical sense, she illustrates the “hole” left when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost the election.
“I woke up this morning and I was faced with a disturbing lack of Hillary,” McKee said. “She had been there for nights before, for years before, in magnets, buttons and shirts, pictures framed and cut out, articles, greeting cards. Her profile carved into the skin of a gourd, coursed, yet gooey, orange, yet decidedly not orange, her profile glowed against the dark and greeted trick-or-treaters.”
ETC member Theresa Beckley-Amaya, an LSA junior, performed a piece she titled “I Am Protest,” in which she describes how she sees her role in society.
“My life is a protest,” Beckley-Amaya said. “A queer, mixed, spiritual woman of color in white, Catholic suburbia. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am immensely grateful for my community, as it shaped me into who I am today, a battling activist who constantly questioned, ‘Why in the world can’t women be priests?’ ‘Why was our teacher fired for being gay?’ Breath, fight, breath, protest, breath, exhale. I am an on-going act of protest.”
Art & Design senior Ian Renstrom, of the Interarts program, performed a comedy stand-up act. Later, he discussed how the faculty helped prepare his piece.
“Channel the darkness,” Renstrom said. “For me, it was a very vulnerable time when Trump got elected, I was alone in my room and watching everything turn red on the map and thought: ‘What is happening? Everyone is failing me.’ I feel hopeless, this was like the epitome of hopelessness.”
Renstrom said he saw the arts in the country under attack by the new administration. At the end of January, Trump stated he wished to cut programs such as public broadcasting — programs that cost 0.02 percent of federal funding.
“It’s inspired me to get angrier,” he said. “The U.S. is the one country that doesn’t have a state-funded art initiative. Trump is getting rid of the National Endowment for the Arts, which is like the closest thing we have.”
He said the central message of his performance was to create change and progress during Trump’s presidency. He hoped the rally would spawn similar events in the future, since he felt it was a way to express his mind.
“Let’s not fuck up the next four years,” Renstrom said. “I want people to realize we can overcome this for sure. He’s going to get away with half the things he’s doing. People are regretting voting for him. There’s going to be hope.”
He also said he felt the University has neglected to support performance-based art forms in favor of more mainstream projects.
“They’re supportive of very accessible stuff,” Renstrom said. “Like, oh we’ll do ‘Angels in America’ or ‘Rent,’ but I feel like with performance art people don’t take it seriously and the University is becoming more accepting. I just wish it was faster.”
Fourth-year medical student Harold Gomez saw the event on Facebook and felt his views aligned with the movement’s message.
“I think of the most important for me that, as you can tell I’m an immigrant, too, being in the United States and being American is tolerance,” he said. “There have been many statements for the Muslim community, people who are supporters of Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ, who I feel transgress all that we have done over the past 50 years for civil rights … I think there should be more work done by the University to try and foster that kind of environment and prevent things that happened with the email controversy from happening.”