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“Express Yourself” by Ernie McCray

November 6, 2015

Acknowledging the Playwright Project’s
“Deborah Salzer Excellence in Arts Education Award”

Ernie McCray was honored as this year’s recipient of Playwright Project’s Deborah Salzer Excellence in Arts Education Award for his passionate and dedicated service as a principal, educator, writer and teaching artist (among many other achievements). The text of his speech can be seen below.

Being recognized
for any contribution
I’ve made to the arts
is like being recognized
for breathing
a breath,
like being identified
for being myself –
as I was raised by a mother
and a grandfather
and a great-aunt
and cousins
and a church
and more than a handful of neighbors
and a teacher or two
at a segregated school
in the spirit of the Golden Rule:
Express myself.
Everybody should express themselves
and nobody else
said it better than
Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Marching Band
when they sang:
“Express yourself.
Express yourself.”
and went on to say:
“It’s not what you look like
when you’re doin’ what you’re doin’.
It’s what you’re doin’ when you’re doin’
what you look like you’re doin’.
Express yourself.”

And the Playwrights Project
under the long time leadership,
of Deborah Salzer,
one of the most beautiful
and soulful
human beings I know,
has been
and is still
in the forefront,
in this very state,
of encouraging
and sponsoring
and mentoring
and wooing
and accompanying
and highlighting
and guiding
and categorizing
and inviting
and rectifying
and employing
and utilizing
and promoting
and fantasizing
and quoting
and justifying
and toasting
and beautifying
and collecting
and exemplifying
and dramatizing: Young people’s expressions.
The work is real.
Done with passion.
And, more importantly, done artfully.
It’s through the arts
that one can truly
find out who they are,
what they think,
how they want their world to be,
where their place is in that world
as far as they can see,
expressing those feelings,
those ideas,
through characters
who live out a reality
from “At rise”
to an ending
that might be seen different
based on whose eyes
have witnessed
all the tensions and plots
and nuances and what not…

Oh, I’m so thankful to have had
a role in such as that
as an actor,
a teacher
and board member.

Being a part of the Playwrights Project
is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.
I accept this award
as an honor
of the highest degree.
Playwriting is a wonderful art.
And I can’t help but say to everyone
within the sound of my grateful heart:
“Muchos gracias, y
Express yourself.
Express yourself.”

Thank you, Ernie for these beautiful words and your years of loving, hard work. Ernie’s speech can also be found at and

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