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Anna Deavere Smith's Quotes

Anna Deavere Smith profile photo

Born: 1950-09-18
Profession: Actress
Nation: American
Biography of Anna Deavere Smith

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Identity is an assemblage of constellations.

Tags: Assemblage, Identity

If you think about what acting is supposed to be, my job is to disappear.

Tags: Acting, Disappear, Job

In my own life I'm frequently in predominantly white atmospheres.

Tags: Frequently, Life, White

In my profession, I'm around a lot of people whose bodies are their instruments in one way or another.

Tags: Another, Profession, Whose

Learning is a tunnel experience that makes us think more broadly.

Tags: Experience, Learning, Makes

Making your life is ultimately an extraordinarily creative endeavor.

Tags: Creative, Life, Making

Movies, as evidenced by a chorus of protesting and celebrating Americans, influence broader trends.

Tags: Influence, Movies, Trends

My main concern is theater, and theater does not reflect or mirror society. It has been stingy and selfish, and it has to do better.

Tags: Mirror, Selfish, Society

Not that many people, even contemporary writers, write about right now.

Tags: Write, Writers

Over time, my students have gotten richer and more educated.

Tags: Educated, Students, Time

People in power have to be careful about what comes out of their mouth. They have to find exactly the right word that can't be attacked.

Tags: Mouth, Power, Word

People who are sick, or who have been sick, or have come close to death have a lot to say - and they want you to hear it.

Tags: Death, Hear, Sick

Probably the person who said the only color in Los Angeles is green was right.

Tags: Color, Green, Said

Suddenly in high school, I'm in a predominantly Jewish atmosphere. Jewish people were my gate to white America.

Tags: America, High, School

That artists are called to be more responsible and 'true' is a tip of hat to their power.

Tags: Artists, Power, True

There's not a lot of flash about me.

Tags: Flash

To live your life well, and have respect for what came before or after - there's a strong respect for that in African culture.

Tags: Life, Respect, Strong

We owe the government taxes. We owe our creditors interest. What do these powers owe us?

Tags: Government, Interest, Taxes

When you think about it, words can break your heart, or they can change your day.

Tags: Change, Heart, Words

You know, all kinds of people inspire me.

Tags: Inspire, Kinds

You know, interesting minds usually do hold more than one idea at a time.

Tags: Idea, Minds, Time

You know, real artists, we expose our flaws. We long for intimacy.

Tags: Artists, Flaws, Real

If I do three interviews in a day, I can be exhausted, because the process of hearing everyone requires that I empty out myself. While I'm listening, my own judgments and prejudices certainly come up. But I know I won't get anything unless I get those things out of the way.

Tags: Everyone, Three, While

Many people are afraid to talk about race because it's so emotionally loaded. We don't have the vocabulary to talk about it. Every day, our vocabulary seems more and more inadequate.

Tags: Afraid, Seems, Talk

Racism has been for everyone like a horrible, tragic car crash, and we've all been heavily sedated from it. If we don't come into consciousness of this tragedy, there's going to be a violent awakening we don't want. The question is, can we wake up?

Tags: Car, Everyone, Racism

Artists are the people that no matter what, pick up the pen, pick up a paintbrush. They take the time to translate what is happening to create something that resonates deeply with the rest of the people that are caught in the middle of their own reality.

Tags: Matter, Reality, Time
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Because of the generation in which I came into the world, there were expectations. Of course there were expectations. It was something having to do with being a respectable Negro woman who would make the people in Baltimore proud.

Tags: Generation, Proud, Woman

I made a real specific decision when I came out of school and most artists were writing about home - if you were a woman, you were writing about being a woman - and I decided not to do that, write about what you know. That's not what I do. I went as far away from home as possible in terms of the development of my imagination.

Tags: Home, School, Woman

I talk about race a lot. It's been my work ever since I came out of acting school. But it's true that in a way talking about race is a taboo. Because so many of our debates about race have to do not with race but with what we are willing to see, what we will not see and what we don't want to see.

Tags: School, True, Work

I think a lot of L.A. is something like USC - this incredible white culture living in the midst of color, and no obvious reaction to it at all. I mean, they have guards at the gate at USC - guards at the gate of a major university! And the guards chase young black boys away - I've seen it, chasing 8-year-old boys.

Tags: Black, Living, Mean

I think it's really important to give yourself a very big question that you're working on that you can come home to, even if you, you know, are going to have to go without a cup of coffee or even a meal, that that should nourish you.

Tags: Give, Home, Yourself

I think we need leadership that helps us remember that part of what we are about is caring about more than the person right next to us, but the folks across the way.

Tags: Caring, Leadership, Remember

I was a mimic when I was a child. I mimicked the teacher and made friends that way, actually. That was a very subversive activity, because I was a goody-goody who never got in trouble. But if I went off in the corner and mimicked the teacher, people loved it.

Tags: Friends, Off, Teacher

My work is about giving voice to the unheard, and reiterating the voice of the heard in such a way that you question, or re-examine, what is the truth.

Tags: Giving, Truth, Work

President Obama called for a 'we' nation in his Inauguration Address. Art convenes. It is not just inspirational. It is aspirational. It pricks the walls of our compartmentalized minds, opens our hearts and makes us brave. And that's what we need most in our country today.

Tags: Art, Country, Today

Somehow we can't live outside the politics of race. There's something very deep in all of us, that is taught to us when we are very, very little. Which is the disrespect and fear of the other.

Tags: Deep, Fear, Politics

The American idea is as promising, imaginative, and full of the unexpected as the land itself. The land represents freedom - the frontier, the ability to make a new future with your own bare hands.

Tags: American, Freedom, Future

We would like doctors to listen, but the fact is, we better be ready to be able to talk to them. You're going to have to be an active participant in that conversation, so I'd say the American people are going to need ways of stepping up to the conversation.

Tags: Able, American, Talk

Well, the terrible thing right now, and I don't know the statistics, but there's a growing concern in some communities about how rapidly people are sent from school to jail, how quickly they're put into the criminal justice system. And of course the rapidly growing number of brown people, both men and women, in prison. And this is terrible.

Tags: Men, School, Women

What my work is, is my approach to it. It's the practice. And my work is about the effort that I make to get there. And I think if there's anything artistic, it's in that middle space.

Tags: Effort, Space, Work

When I got out of acting school, I was lucky to have gotten any job at all. A lot of people hiring African American actresses - it was right after 'Roots,' and for society, not me, it was great. Nice richly dark-skinned people was the fashion, and I was not.

Tags: Great, Nice, Society

You hang around actors, or dancers, the minute you sneeze, everybody has a remedy, and we're all on a million different kinds of diets, and different kinds of things that we do for exercise.

Tags: Everybody, Exercise, Kinds

You know if we were to look back and how we were in 1955 living in Jim Crow, living in segregation, living in segregated schools, it's hard to believe that it was America, but it really was.

Tags: America, Hard, Living

Friendship is a wildly underrated medication.

Tags: Friendship, Medication, Wildly

Listening is not just hearing what someone tells you word for word. You have to listen with a heart. I don't want that to sound touchy-feely; it is not. It is very hard work.

Tags: Heart, Someone, Work

I am interested in personal stories because that's when people become expressive, spontaneous and heartfelt.

Tags: Become, Interested, Personal

A lot of acting techniques are very self-oriented.

Tags: Acting, Techniques

Each person has a literature inside them.

Tags: Inside, Literature

For me, first of all, I love people, I love ideas.

Tags: Ideas, Love

I am lucky: I have fantastic doctors and a fantastic dentist.

Tags: Dentist, Fantastic, Lucky

I call the language of political figures, pundits and administrators 'the haute couture of language.'

Tags: Call, Language, Political

I don't talk a lot when I interview. My job is to get out of the way.

Tags: Interview, Job, Talk

I feel like my work has been my path to freedom from having grown up in a segregated environment.

Tags: Freedom, Path, Work

I have a lot of optimism about new doctors because I think it's really clear that it's a lot of hard work and no guarantee of a lot of money.

Tags: Hard, Money, Work

I have never been in a violent movie or television show.

Tags: Movie, Show, Television

I love studying how people are. Not just what they're saying, but how they are, what they're doing.

Tags: Love, Saying, Studying

I mean, I think a healthy country is a country where people are healthy physically, and a smart country is a country where people are educated.

Tags: Country, Mean, Smart

I mean, I think that - as an actress, in particular, I'm basically a fool, and I see the world upside down.

Tags: Actress, Fool, Mean

I never know when somebody's going to knock on the door of my own unconscious in a way that I wouldn't have anticipated.

Tags: Door, Knock, Somebody

I remember from my father's funeral that the minister kept using a metaphor about life of a prism. And I took that away like a cherished image.

Tags: Father, Life, Remember

I see myself as not a typical theater person, but a person who uses the theater as a place to meet people and explore ideas.

Tags: Ideas, Meet, Place

I see myself first and foremost as a student of expression.

Tags: Expression, Foremost, Student

I think as a kid I always liked to listen to people. I loved hearing stories.

Tags: Kid, Listen, Loved

I think some of our most talented people are not going to pick the arts as a way that they're going to spend their lives.

Tags: Arts, Lives, Spend

I think that art is supposed to be ahead of the times.

Tags: Art, Times

I would love to have been a documentary filmmaker; I just didn't have the resources to do that.

Tags: Filmmaker, Love, Resources

I write plays about big, intense subjects.

Tags: Big, Intense, Write

I'm interested when things are upside down - because there are so many possibilities in that one moment. There is a lot that is exposed.

Tags: Interested, Moment, Upside
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