Race Circus Project

Spring 2014-2016. In the seventies, just after the 1960s peak of the Civil Rights Movement in which Atlanta was a major base, white flight and growth in suburban areas began. According to an article published in Ebony magazine in the late 90s, Atlanta became known as a ‘black mecca’, a land of opportunities for black folks in education, employment, home ownership, and entrepreneurship. The 2010 Census reported that in the last fifteen years, Hispanic and Asian populations have nearly doubled. Now, as April 2003 Footnotes article in the Newsletter of the American Sociological Association explores, a current trend has brought the white population back, particularly in the downtown neighborhoods of Atlanta.


With so many shifts and such diversity, we share spaces with other races but we have noticed that when we retire to our friend groups and neighborhoods, they are often segregated by many factors, one of which is race. This brings us to ask ourselves, fifty years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act, where are we in terms of race relations? Are we an integrated city? How so and how not? How does the current state of separation vs diversity effect the lives of Atlanta residents?


To explore these questions, we formed a group of six social circus artists of diverse backgrounds. With the help of doctoral level sociology students and other members of the social justice community, we held recorded race specific and integrated dialogue sessions between individuals who have been a part of the Atlanta Public School System. It is our belief that the public school system is a place where many learn for the first time to interact across racial lines and that what was shared in the dialogue sessions offers a sample that reflects many of the perspectives held by the residents of this city. Over the course of two years, we worked with artistic collaborators and community partners in an exploration of the stories and experiences shared. This exploration culminated in the creation of a circus show that was offered free of charge in the four quadrants of Atlanta in Spring of 2016. After each show, audiences themselves were invited into a 45 minute facilitated dialogue.