Actress responds to Charlottesville violence
Bermudian actress Lana Young reached a “tipping point” after a neo-Nazi in a car mowed down anti-racism demonstrators in Charlottesville, killing a woman and injuring 19 others.
Now she has launched Blended Experience — an Instagram page to celebrate differences and people coming together.
The page already features mixed-race couples, holiday pictures and babies.
Ms Young, who lived in the Virginia city for five years before moving to New York, said she knew the scene of the terror attack and had friends at the demonstration, sparked by white supremacists protesting at the removal of the statue of a US Civil War confederate general.
Ms Young said: “One of them was missed by an inch. They’re traumatised. They watched people getting crushed. You can’t unsee that.”
The scenes of devastation, which claimed the life of 32-year-old Heather Hayer, were captured by photographer Ryan Kelly of The Daily Progress.
In the iconic photo, two protesters — one black, one white — were sent into the air, while Ms Young’s blue-shirted friend stood in shock to the left of the attacker’s car.
Ms Young said: “The racial divide is widening and I’m trying to figure out what small role I can play in being part of the solution.
“It’s always been very black versus white in Bermuda. But there are many of us blended or mixed-race people who are straddling the racial divide and who want to freely love and support both families.
“With all the coverage in Charlottesville, it is apparent, and maybe for the first time, that there are more people of all races on the same page than are not.”
The Instagram page, which can be followed at @blendedexperience, has no set parameters, but celebrates the happy experience of combining differences. Ms Young — like many Bermudians — is of mixed race. Her father, Stan Young, is black and Portuguese, while her mother Margaret Young is white and from Northern Ireland.
She explained her aim was to promote “serious listening, and an outline of actionable solutions and goals”.
Ms Young added: “There’s a lot of work needed to acknowledge atrocities past and present. I’m not trying to take that away. I’m not singing kumbaya.”
Ms Young moved to Charlottesville, a university city with a population of 50,000, in 2009 where she ran an acting school.
She said she enjoyed “an easy way of life — I was ingrained in the community. I had a talk show there”.
Ms Young added that the University of Virginia draws “wonderful, creative people”, but that the city had problems.
She said: “They call themselves diverse. But if you talk to people of colour who live there, there are still problems.
“But it’s much more progressive than the rest of the state.”
Tensions exploded in the city last week when a rally under the banner of “unite the right” was organised to protest against the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee.
General Lee commanded the confederate forces during the Civil War and later became a hero of the “lost cause” of the Southern states who fought to preserve slavery.
Counter-demonstrators gathered to challenge the white supremacist protesters and as clashes broke out, city authorities declared a state of emergency. Just two hours later, counter-demonstrators were rammed, killing Ms Hayer. A Nazi sympathiser from Ohio has since been charged with her murder.
Ms Young added that other historical ghosts haunt Charlottesville — like Monticello, the plantation of slave-owning Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and now a museum.
She said: “I’ve always struggled with Monticello and Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson did great things. But he was a slave owner. You can’t ignore that.”
Ms Young added she came from a relaxed background where she was “never made to feel like I had to fit in” and was slow to learn how race operated.
She said: “Race was created to divide. It’s always been the big divider in Bermuda.
“It’s leaving out people like me. This is where you get into sensitive territory.
“Images and representations of people are a very important thing. Everything we see through the media and entertainment is our teacher.
“It’s what we get used to, and how we see the world. Over the years we’ve seen people of colour misrepresented and criminalised through the news, shows, films, and not a lot of positive images.
“I’d like to be part of the change.”
Ms Young admitted she was nervous about putting herself in the spotlight at a time of heightened racial tension in the US.
She said: “I don’t know where this is going. But I had to start. I’m open to whatever people want to share.”
Ms Young added: “It’s no longer okay to say, hey, oppression doesn’t exist anymore, or hey, get over it. And it’s equally important that we are able to clearly articulate and define what we want to see improve and change, and be able to identify very solid ideas and solutions about how we want to see that change happen. And respectfully by all.
“It will take both whites and blacks and all of us in between to be open and available to ask and answer the hard questions.”
• Anyone interested in taking part in Blended Experience can share a picture or viewpoint to firstname.lastname@example.org