The mission of the Red Door Project is to change racial ecology through the arts.
We envision a society where people from diverse racial backgrounds and experiences live, work, play, and create together, and all people have the confidence, capacity, and opportunity to fulfill their highest human potential.
All people, regardless of personal, cultural, and social history, internalize values and beliefs of the world they have been raised in. While some of these values and beliefs enable creative achievement and success, others create a sense of profound limitation and self-doubt.
This doubt can be described as “internalized oppression” – a process by which people come to accept and internalize the inaccurate myths and stereotypes they have been exposed to. No one is immune from having to wrestle with a sense that something is holding them back, regardless of background or privilege.
The Red Door Project is founded on the belief that with the right education, exposure, and support, everyone is capable of growing their capacity to create, to achieve, and to thrive. And this belief is our driving philosophy – the core of everything we do.
What is the “Red Door”?
August Wilson introduced the “red door” as the entryway to the Pittsburgh home of his character, Aunt Ester, who is a mystical figure featured throughout his 10-play American Century Cycle. Aunt Ester is 366 years old at the time of her death, which occurs in King Hedley II, set in the 1980s. She was born in the year 1619, which is the year slaves arrived in America. The color of the door reflects Wilson’s connection to the Yoruba religion, in which shrines were traditionally painted red, a color of purification.
In Gem of The Ocean, we follow a freed slave, Citizen Barlow, who is instructed to visit Aunt Ester at 1839 Wylie Ave (“can’t miss it – there’s a big red door”) to free himself from the internal chains that bind him.
She represents healing for all people from a society ripped apart by the legacy of slavery and racism. Those who walk through her red door are taken on a journey of transformation and redemption. It is this journey that inspires and guides the intention of the Red Door Project.
“What is your life worth, Mr. Citizen? That what you got to find out. You got to find a way to live in truth. If you live right you die right.”
― Aunt Ester, Gem of the Ocean, August Wilson