I am grateful for the invitation from Ruth Morgan, director of COMMUNITY WORKS, to the Bay Area Premier of Daniel Beaty’s ‘Transforming Pain to Power’ performance at the Brava Theater on Saturday.
Daniel Beaty, author of the book ‘Transforming Pain to Power,’ arrives in San Francisco after a 35-city tour across the country presenting his performance, and sharing his story, with audiences like the one assembled tonight, young adults and seasoned community workers, their smiles, tears and applause, evidence Daniel Beaty’s performance transcends boundaries to talk about incarceration.
A consummate performer, Daniel Beaty crosses all barriers in sharing his personal story of development as an artist, and as the son of a parent incarcerated chronically. Brava Theater San Francisco, photo by Catherine Herrera, Intl CR Reserved. Contact for License
Yale-trained actor, singer and performer Daniel Beaty’s path could have gone a different direction.
Daniel’s life was impacted personally by incarceration, his father turning to hard drugs just as minimum mandatory sentencing took effect, transforming a young family man from a small time neighborhood dealer into a chronically, and institutionally profitably, incarcerated man.
In middle school, running an errand, Daniel stopped mid-way, and felt he saw himself in the future, standing on stage before a large audience. Not long after, in school, Daniel was moved by the speeches of presidents and most, with Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, its impact still felt in the lives of Beaty’s and families across the land. Reading the speeches of other historical figures like President Abraham Lincoln in school inspired him as an orator.
A trusted teacher Beaty turned to share his secret dream of one day being an orator himself, helped the young man apply for an academic speech contest that Beaty went on to win, changing the course of his journey by having his dream reinforced positively.
Daniel saw what was happening around him, and he remembers in ‘Dance Momma Dance,’ how his mother worked two jobs to support the children she had to raise on her own. A deeply moving performance, in the piece ‘Dance Momma Dance,’ Daniel reminds all women to stop for a second, to remember themselves once in a while. Many people in the audience related, knowing very well the role women play in keeping families together today in a society where so many men are locked up, leaving behind families. Children and women.
Saturday night, the audience was filled with youth members of Community Works and Project What! and program directors working in conjunction with the Sheriff’s Department.
Young performers and community members shared their experiences of overcoming the task of picking up the pieces from today’s distinction of the United States having the world’s largest prison population.
As an artist, I was moved to see in action the power of storytelling.
Saturday was a night to honor several of the young people, and community leaders, whose hard work is paying off in personal and community achievements. The night served to inspire other young people and show concrete examples of how it is possible to rise above the experience to be part of a broader solution.
‘Hurt People hurt People,’ was one of the restorative justice lessons imparted on stage, a valuable mantra that sums up the essence of going deeper to find the reasons for violence and crime that seek to restore the victim and society.
The awardees spoke about the concept of restorative justice practices that consider crime from the wider, broader view of the victim, and the criminal – looking at both parties as central to a much larger structure within the country that is producing the level of crime and prison populations that are happening here.
These concepts are now being examined within the conversation of preschool-to-prison pipeline investigations.
Daniel is an incredibly energetic and giving performer, as a storyteller, alternating between dance, song, spoken word and straight talk about the legacy of policy over the last 40 years.
In his book ‘Transforming Pain to Power,’ and, on stage, Daniel offers a wise kernel for anyone to take home.
Our mind is our most powerful tool. Studies show that negative thoughts make up 75-80% of all human thoughts each day.
By transforming the messages of negativity – by doing the hard work of facing that internal critic – human potential can overcome and transform painful situations into personal and community power to heal.
in Daniel’s case, despite being at the top of his class and overachieving, he did not believe he was worthy because deep down, as a young child, he had internalized his father’s absence and, later, incarceration, as his fault – that he was unworthy.
Daniel Beaty shares an important message that crosses over to embrace the experiences of anyone who has experienced traumatic pain.
Self-responsibility and accountability – transforming the pain into power – means recognizing the messages, and, reclaiming the mind.
As more people talk about transforming the current preschool-to-prison pipeline, and, fully understand the impact on children and families, the same calls for responsibility are being applied more broadly.
Daniel Beaty is truly a captivating performer, whose book ‘Transforming Pain to Power’ offers important guidance to children of incarcerated parents, seasoned and new criminal reform and justice professionals, and, anyone experiencing extremely challenging situations.