Sunday, December 30, 2007
saartji listens to poison and ponders
why exactly cant you trust a big butt and a smile
heat and curves do not kill
a jiggle you can feel in your throat/ is pleasure
and my lips bending into a poem is a smile not nuclear war
there was a world built here some call earth
or heaven or ocean or god
my butt and lips are not three card monty
are not watches sold on L's in the city mothered by oya
or the snap of a brothas spanish/ he wants to leave on your breast
the issue of trust does not lay here or here or here
beneath the pyramid of my pelvis
Reflections and ripples
As I write this, I am sitting at the same table I was sitting at when I first learned to divide. This is the table I had breakfast at after I began my first period. I introduced my first fiancé to my mother at this table. Not much has changed about this table but the people who sit around it are dramatically different. My mama, the spicy intellectual, who ran a tight ship and kept me off the streets and encouraged to do great things has mellowed out a lot. In her retirement, she takes long walks and likes her house to stay silent. I am writing right now about rhodessa jones' Medea Project for Incarcerated Women. I am writing about the "power and possibility," the title of Elizabeth Alexander's most recent collection of essays, of staged embodied narrative and the transformative implications of story telling and movement. There are indeed transformative qualities.
This kitchen table used to be surrounded by yellow walls. The refrigerator is the same so is the stove. The floor is different. Large beige ceramic tiles. I can't remember what is was before, but once a mouse got in and ran so quickly across the floor to get away from us we couldn't help but laugh. The walls are now a creamy white. Once I splashed red kool aide on these walls. They are much different now. So am I.
I am writing at this table now. Trying to finish this paper, that I want to read to my mama. She knows her baby is at NYU writing and reading all the time. Writing through graduate school. Writing about women writing and reclaiming their labor for their own well-being. I am writing about how women undo time. The trauma of the prison industrial complex ages us, whether we are locked up or not. I am writing about how this goddess called rhodessa rewinds the narratives, back through the rough parts, back through rocky roads women want to forget, back through the good parts too. She wants us to hold onto the good parts. The good parts reveal a different part of the self. One that does not need to be bandaged up by drugs, bad relationships, self-deprecating behaviors and actions.
I must admit I am possessed by the narratives women write about their time here on this planet. I think a part of my life's work is concerned with how we take back the time that really is all ours. How we make our bodies bend time to our specifications. I wonder what rhodessa is doing or undoing right now. I wonder what toni Morrison is doing right now? I wonder what audre and june are doing right now. I wonder what my mama is doing right now. Oh she is playing solitaire and looking at the stacks of books I brought home to write with.
I am looking for an origin that may not exist. I want to know where cycles begin. Is it behind the wind? I want to know how cycles can be interrupted, shaken, cracked open to reveal a new sunlight. I am looking for a way to interrupt my own harmful cycles. I am looking for a way to intrerrupt the cycles of women who look like me. African women, poor women, white women, spiritual women, Houston women, women in florida. Women everywhere, who share a similar skin. I am called to continue writing and performing an intervention that shines like this little light of ours.
UnDoing Time: The Medea Project for Incarcerated Women as Social Activism
Dedicated to Joan Little and Many other Sisters "Locked Up"
"…we have had to look from the outside
to make sense of a world that has not endeavored
to include us among its intellectuals."
"Let us not forget to remember that
the struggle continues for all of us."
Come Into the Sun, a coalition dedicated to delinquency prevention, reports that between 1970 and 1990 the number of women offenders increased 896 percent from 588 to 5, 858 (Fraden 123). Additionally, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children reports that although black women comprise 7 percent of California's population they constitute 34.1 percent of the prison population, with Hispanic women following at 22.7 percent (124). In "Imagining Medea", Rena Fraden documents the nine-year journey of the Medea Project for Incarcerated Women. Fraden includes interviews, photographs and analysis of the successes and challenges the Medea Project encountered as the project gained momentum within the prison system.
Angela Y. Davis, Berkley scholar and noted prison industrial complex abolitionist, writes in the forward to "Imaging Medea", "One of the important contributions of the Medea Project has been to demystify the relationship between crime and punishment. As prison populations have soared in the United States, the conventional assumption that increased levels of crime are the cause of expanding prison populations has been widely contested" (xi). The statistics fail to present the social factors such as drug addiction, racism, domestic violence and poverty that heavily skew these numbers. In the following excerpt from "Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women", Mama Pearl reveals why she began engaging in illegal behavior. "I got three daughters. My older daughter was born deaf and dumb. She's the reason I went to jail in the first place. You see, I embezzled some money from the company that I was working at so my daughter could get special training so that she could take care of herself, despite her handicap" (Elam 369). This monologue illustrates the choices some mothers are forced make to support their children. The staggering figures, along with Davis' thoughts and Mama Pearl's scenario, suggest the overarching sociopolitical issues affecting how and why women go to prison and speak to failed rehabilitation programs and high levels of recidivism within the California Department of Corrections.
Rhodessa Jones created the Medea Project for Incarcerated Women after the California Department of Corrections hired her to teach aerobics. The project incorporates physical theater, writing, dance, and healing modalities to "explore whether an arts-based approach [to rehabilitation] could help reduce the number of women returning to jail" (culturalodyssey.org/medea/). "The decision to use Medea stemmed from the fact that a young woman in the theater workshop, who was incarcerated for infanticide, was ostracized and taunted by other inmates. [I] told the women the story of Medea and Jason and asked the group to interpret it in relationship to their own lives, to consider ways in which they were like Medea, but also different," says Jones (Warner, 484). The Medea Project staged "Big Butt Girls, Hard-headed Women, Buried Fire, Slouching Towards Armageddon: A Captive's Conversation/Observation on Race, Food Taboos in the Land of the Dead, and Reality Is Just Outside the Window during her tenure at the San Francisco County Jail. Jones' project, subversive in creation and application, high-jacks the space of the prison industrial complex and provides a venue for women to actively engage in narratives around their incarcerations.
Beginning in 1987, Jones facilitated workshops on Wednesdays with the women. She began with twelve women who were assigned to her aerobics class. Soon, her enrollment ballooned to over fifty women once the word spread that there was a place women could heal and rehabilitate themselves through acting. The project provided time and space for the women to meditate, through the practice of performance, on the complex social factors involved in their individual journeys to jail. Jones, a trained actress, dancer, and choreographer, noticed immediately that the women desired a space to express what court systems, lovers, and family members refused to hear. Her process shows physical activity as an extension of language, and language as an extension of the body. Harry Elam notes,
"The correlation between "aerobics" and "Big Butt Girls" is not ironic nor trivial, but purposeful. Aerobics hones and shapes the body. The use and abuse of women's bodies is the center of Jones' performance piece as well. Jones reveals the pressures, constraints, degradations, and exploitations enacted on and against the bodies of these "Big Butt Girls" and "Hard-Headed Women" by their society, their lovers, their families, and even themselves" (10).
Elam's idea speaks to what Teresa Ralli teaches in her Voice of the Body workshop at Casa de Yuyachkani in Lima. In this workshop, Ralli leads participants through a series of yogic breaths and asanas, modern, improvisational and experimental dance movements to free the voice from certain blocked spaces in the body. Her workshop teaches participants about the intimate connection the body and the voice share and reveals a process of healing that happens when the voice is freed from the body. Ralli insists participants move like poetry, like water, free from silence's viscous restraints.
The inaugural production of the Medea Project, titled Big Butt Girls, Hard Headed Women "explores an underclass of women who are intentionally silenced and ostracized by the systems of power" (Elam 9). Ralli's workshop enlivens the chakras from the deep dark spaces of the root chakra to the bright spaces of the crown chakra to dislodge the voice locked inside the body. In one session, Ralli led participants through a series of vocal exercises. The call and response exercise included a series of whispers, chants, shouts, screams, and various other exclamations. During the session, several participants incorporated rhythmic hand drumming and stomping to express what the voice could not but the body could. At some point, each participant's body and voice were tuned, which tuned the voices and bodies for the entire group. Not only did each individual body and voice make music, but the entire community harmoniously connected and functioned as a cohesive entity. By exploring the sound of the spirit inside each body, each participant unravels an instinctual voice that allows the individual to listen, reinvent and revise the narratives that create the soundtrack to their personal triumphs and traumas.
The project serves as a site for exploring alternative rehabilitation modalities. Jones utilizes Brechtian and Boal methodology as well as critical ethnographic practices as espoused by Dwight Conquregood and D. Soyini Madison to engender personal narrative, thoughtful interaction, and shifts in consciousness that leave lasting impressions on those women who share these experiences. Fraden offers, "This is a case study that describes how the Medea Project creates and alternative, sometimes oppositional space, and how it reshapes theoretical and practical boundaries that mark off the aesthetic, commercial, political, moral, personal, and religious realms we inhabit at present, evaluating which methods work best at creating more permeable boundaries" (xv). Fraden's ideas speak to what she, Jones, and Davis express as the knowledge that much work has to be done to alter the lives of these women or the prison system. Her ideas illuminate the importance of teaching and rehearsing a practice that could work one woman at a time to create a massive restructuring of the prison industrial complex and possibly other institutions as well.
Jones' project uses one of the few resources afforded to women in prison. A resource even the prison can not arrest to critique women's imprisonment. Time is a major resource in prison. Sorrentina, one of the characters in "Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women" exposes what doing time does to the body as she undergoes a detoxification program in solitary confinement.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
The lord be with thee.
Blessed are the fruit of thy womb.
J e s u s.
Holy Mary, mother of God.
Pray for us sinners now,
And in the hour of our death.
I'm so damn tired. I'm tired of being sick and tired. She's fucking dogmeat, man. Just one little shot. This bitch, snitches at Work Furlough. She was getting stoned, too. Piss in a cup. Piss on your family, okay. Fuck you. Count time, my ass. When will this shit end? This is the longest nightmare I have ever had.
During a brief stint as a GED instructor in a male medium security prison I learned the value of time and how time is practiced. I watched men watch the clock, ask each other about what time it was, and ask each other about how much time they had. Some of the men talked about "filling" time with reading, or completing puzzles, or various nefarious activities, but time was always a topic of conversation. Perhaps, the men where attempting to "grasp" time, to "retain" some semblance of time and their power over it. They counted minutes to lunch time. They counted days to canteen visits. They counted weeks between visits and letters to hold onto their relationship with those on the outside. I learned about how time orients society and how this orientation impacts the prison as a microcosm of society. I learned that several of my students worried if they didn't see me walking across "the yard" at a certain time every morning. They thought up all kinds of scenarios from sicknesses, to car wrecks. A few even thought that I may have been searched and detained for drug smuggling one morning. The point is time in prison creates positionality to the others "locked up", to the self, and those on the outside. Relationships are heavily affected by time. Some of the men were broken by how much time they had and felt they could never do or perform all of their time. While others, with lighter sentences, moved as if they were on vacation at a resort. Those men most always earned their GED's, increased their technical skills and stayed out of trouble. They did time, instead of allowing time to do them. Wherever one is situated in society, time is a resource and a commodity that institutions within society want to benefit from. Money is made based on time and bodies. The men talked about choosing GED courses over the road squad because they refused to let the prison make money off their labor or time. They chose GED courses because they felt they would reap the benefits of education before the prison system and in that way they resisted the prisons construction of time and labor.
The Medea Project performs a similar resistance as practiced by the men a Warren Correctional in northern North Carolina. Fraden writes, "In other words, as women's presence behind the walls continues to grow, so does their performance of the invisible labor summoned by the expanding prison population as a whole" (xi). The Medea Project serves as a model and a practice for returning the fruits of incarcerated women's labor back to those women. So much focus is placed on what inmates will do after they are released from prison, but very little attention is placed on the road to prison. It is almost as if the prison system resets time at one's admittance. But time is multi-directional and the project unravels it. In essence, Jones instructs the women on how to steal time from the jails, how to bend time to their benefit instead of letting time defeat them. This project absolutely is about destabilizing time as a method of psychically, emotionally, and spiritually escaping prison. The Medea Project serves as a site for what Angela Davis calls "theorizing on the ground" about how best to equip women with the tools needed to create their own relationships with time (past tense, present, and future) and space while matriculating through the prison system and beyond.
It is also important to spend some time thinking about what cultural business radical theatre practice accomplishes in space of the prison. Specifically, how do these virtuosic bodies and voices, occupying multiple spaces and times, under Jones' direction and tutelage circumvent the prison space? Moreover, how do the women's voices and bodies along with stealing back time, also steal the prison's space. We can think about how the women steal their bodies back from society and the prison through performance. We should also think about how the women take up prison space with their voice and performance. A large part of the performance of the prison industrial complex continues the dehumanizing social practices women experience on the outside. This practice of alienation dismantles relationships women have with themselves and other women. The destruction of these relationships possibly prohibit women from recognizing how their individual struggles comprise a larger tapestry of experiences that effect the majority of incarcerated women.
Birthing these personal narratives begins to address the stigmatism associated with women offenders and the traumas the share. Through activating the voice of the body, the space of the body transforms but also the space of the prison changes as well. Jones believes "through love, through the power of the ancestors, through the linkage of past to present and future, a body can "catch a body". The needless loss of black lives to the prison system can be overcome through collective consciousness and the formation and assertion of community" (10). Jones identifies the development of a community as a foundational and fundamental step in her process with the women. Fraden includes photographs of correctional officers smiling as they observe the women's rehearsal process. She also describes one moment when she observed one of the women's inmate identification bracelets as the performed at Theatre Artaud in San Francisco. Both of these incidents illustrate how the space of the prison was altered by the Medea Project. Unfortunately, the prison system is large enough to hold multiple narratives and the participants in the Medea Project maps another narrative onto the space of the prison.
Thiong'o's article, Enactments of Power: The Politics of Performance Space, asks us to consider the politics of geography, "open space", "openness", "territorial space" along side issues of body, movement in postcolonial Kenya. I agree with Thiong'o's assertion that the tug-of-war occurring between the artist and the state is a power struggle in which both parties seek leverage over space and also seek to perform autonomy. Through examining the personal agency of bodies in space, or restrictions thereof, we examine the states colonial/postcolonial practices of domination, oppression, and censorship which seek to squelch community performances of resistance. Taking a cue from Thiong'o, I wonder how the Medea Project pushes the limits of the function of the prison space. Certainly, the prison is not a space for artistic training or the site of major
rehabilitation. However, we should consider the potential of the performance space that no longer serves as a site of prescribed action.
Jones reveals that "benign neglect and blind rage" make the women's problems
"too immense and too great". She says, "But I was raised in a family by a mother and a father who taught me that when you're called to something too great, too immense, you can always take it to God. Now the African in my American teaches me to take is to the Ancestors" (374). Here the Jones articulates a poetics of presence that challenges spatial frontiers. The preceding quote conceptualizes a framework, a set of tools that extends back and into the future, and is all-encompassing like faith and belief in the in the omnipresent strength and fortitude of a trans-national family. It may be helpful to read Thiong'o ideas about re-scripting space along side Jones' work. Both projects seek to replace the narrative of space created by the ruling power structure with that of the marginalized population. Their projects "fill in the gaps" as Suzan-Lori Parks describes in
an interview with Shelby Jiggetts in Callaloo Journal.
Elam notes, "She challenges audience members to recognize their personal connections to these women. "Who are these women? She's your mama. She's your lover. That women who is gonna carry your child." Jones points out that the system of crime and punishment touches all our lives and that we all have a responsibility to act for social change."(10) Jones' work urges us to reach past our comfortable or uncomfortable positions to recognize how we are all implicated in the phenomenon of the prison industrial complex. Jones writes, "In jail. A black woman artist, working in jail. I look out at all those faces. There's my mother's face, my sister's face, and my daughter's face. And I'm wondering how in the hell did they get here in the first place. And I realize that it is but for a flip of fate that it could be me in here and she out there" (367).
Fraden includes a monologue from Slouching Towards Armageddon that works to vaporize these boundaries. She writes, "A white prisoner, Angela Wilson (Confusion), delivers a piece that speaks about her frustration with landing in jail. Wilson describes her rage at finding herself in jail as a kind of second jail, her "own personal lockup." She recognizes, as the monologue progresses, that she is responsible for herself: A killer I've allowed myself to be—of me. Here, all locked up in this place. Heart, mind, body, and soul, all agree, we can't wait, to be set free, of this prejudice against—me." Wilson describes a prison not comprised of brick and mortar but prison as an experience or set of experiences, an embodied prison she "can't wait to be free of". This monologue highlights the psychic "lock up" women can experience on "the inside" or in society. In this sense, prison is an invisible state of being that affects and is affected by a series of personal and
social events. Again, Jones' turns the spotlight on the audience members and calls for everyone in the room to participate in the work of imagining their own prisons. In an odd and uncomfortable way, Jones builds a community in the safe space of the theatre that diffuses notions of identity and space through the performance of private narratives in public. Again she reiterates, we are all involved and implicated in the stark increase in women going to prison and living on "lock down".
This monologue alongside Jones' dramaturgical practice of conflating classical mythic texts and street language or aerobics and theatre therapy builds on a larger legacy of black women's cultural practices of healing around the kitchen table or on the front porch. Jones' project destabilizes the canon and allows diverse voices to express similar issues that take place in classical texts. In this respect, we maybe able to read Jones' work, in part, as a project against genre. Elizabeth Alexander talks about reading as a poet in her most recent collection of essays Power and Possibility.
I assume I have always "read as a poet," which is to say, there are various shapes of poetic argument in prose. Reading as an African-American woman intellectual poet? Reading, as my lodestar Audre Lorde would have it, with all of my selves active and present and vigilant and alive. The great utility
of so much black feminist theory was the guiding truism that black women have blazed alternative routes to making sense of the world, that regardless of our differing circumstances, we have had to look from the outside to make sense of a world that has not endeavored to include us among its intellectuals. Alexander reminds us how poetry, specifically black women's poetry, conceives alternate configurations for black women in this world. Alexander's ideas engender thoughts about the social and political work theatre must accomplish for black women. It must create new avenues, wide enough for black women to walk down. It must allow for our full citizenship in the world. It must be a space where we can explore the totality of our being. Her ideas in some ways, talk about poetry more as an interwoven series understandings and performances that are larger than genre.
Actually, her ideas refute genre as Suzan-Lori Parks performs in her anti-genre essay "New Black Math". A project that challenges the silence and the disease resulting from traumatic life styles and the trauma of the prison industrial complex cannot be bound by genre. It would be a re-manifestation of the restrictions placed on them by society and the prison system. Possibly, we could understand Jones' work as one to dismantle the prison industrial complex but also we would think about it as one that dismantles the prisons that stratify communities of women, that render us unrecognizable by our sisters, mothers, daughters, and friends locked up, locked down, or locked away. We are all co-participants in this madness called a world.
One performance of "Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women" is performed as a one-woman show in which Jones performs the poems, stories, and monologues written
with Regina Brown, Mama Pearl, Lena Sorrentina and Doris to reveal the porosity of identity. Jones transitions between the four characters and herself as the artist, diminishing the frontiers separating women by infusing one narrative into another. She embodies and performs the question that creates the working hypothesis of the Medea Project: Can a body catch a body? The choreographed falls and recoveries, swirls and facial manipulations show a merging of bodies and narratives that make each individual story a part of a larger healing narrative.
Sara L. Warner writes about her experiences observing the process in her essay "The Medea Project: Mythic Theater for Incarcerated Women". In one of the sessions she observed, the incarcerated women demanded to know more about Jones and the other facilitators. Warner writes, "I soon learned that what separated the women on the outside from the women on the inside was for the most part circumstantial. The volunteers' histories were similar, if not the same, as the women in orange: sexual abuse, foster care, drug addiction, domestic violence, and poverty (489). Jones requires that the participants are honest with themselves and with the group. In order for her to require this, she must also practice full disclosure. Her honesty shows the women that there are other choices for the same circumstances. In what is commonly referred to in southern black communities as a "come to Jesus" session, everyone reveals who they are and relationships can be built on equal solid footing by all the participants.
The violence of the prison industrial complex insists on the hierarchical construction of power and domination that systematically marginalize oppressed women. While Jones' project makes this crystal clear to Medea Project participants, she also makes them aware that the prisons are not only at fault. The project emphasizes the amount of women who are trapped by circumstance or limited opportunities for advancement. Jones makes it apparent that at any point in time anyone could be backed against the wall and may end up sitting right where the participants are sitting. In an NPR interview she talks about how art has made the difference between her and some of the women "locked up" in the San Francisco County Jail. Lesley Yalen and Cynthia Cohen make known in "Complementary Approaches to Coexistence Work" that, "Arts and culture are important means through which people and communities come to understand, express, and communicate their ideas, emotions, needs, hopes, concerns, and memories". I agree. Art elicits a process by which we can bring memories from the corners, from the forgotten spaces of the past to the present. But that process extends past the present, it must. Artistic and cultural practices also serve as tuning devices. Tuning individuals into themselves and their communities. Just as two drummers will eventually breath in unison, it is possible that a community that creates art together will eventually be tuned into each others needs and desires for social and civic movement.
Alexander, Elizabeth. Power & Possibility. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007.
Cultural Oddyssey. http://www.culturalodyssey.org.
El Grupo Yuyachkani. http://www.yuyachkani.org.
Elam, Harry and Alexander, Robert, eds. Colored Contradictions: An Anthology of Contemporary African-American Plays. New York: Penguin Group, 1996.
Fraden, Rena. Imagining Medea: Rhodessa Jones & Theater for Incarcerated Women. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2001.
National Public Radio. "Medea Project Brings Hope to Incarcerated Women". Oct. 2007. www.npr.org.
Parks, Suzan-Lori. "New Black Math". Theatre Journal 57:4. December 2005. pp. 578- 583.
Thiong'o, Ngugi. "Enactments of Power: The Politics of Performance Space". TDR. Vol. 41, no. 3. Autumn, 1997. pp. 11-30. Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Warner, Sara. "The Medea Project: Mythic Theater for Incarcerated Women". Feminist Studies, no. 2. Summer 2004
Yalen, Lesley and Cohen, Cynthia. "Complementary Approaches to Coexistence Work". Complementary Approaches to Coexistence Work: Focus on Coexistence and the Arts. July 2007.
So most of yall know I am working on a ethnographic healing process with a group of women here in nyc and in nc. Well I have been awarded a small grant to continue this oh so important process.
I am very thankful to NYU for supporting this work in this way. Here is more information about the grant.
Sistas, you are still welcome to participate if you wish...
The -Ism Grant http://www.cmep.nyu.edu/ism.html
Racism. Capitalism. Individualism. Feminism. What is an "–ism?" They surround us. We live them. We embrace them. We resist them.
Accordingly, the –ISM Project, provides a venue for students to critically examine the complex ways –isms permeate their lives, especially in regards to diversity and in-tolerance. The objective of this program is to provide an opportunity for students to engage in an education and professional project, which encourages creativity, freedom of expression, and free thinking.
What is the –ISM Project?
This unique program encourages students to analyze various –isms in our communities as it relates to race, culture, class, gender, politics, religion, and other existing social constructs. Beyond critical analysis, the participants create artistic platforms to creatively express their research and personal understanding of their selected -isms. The resulting projects' shared goal is to incite introspection, open exchange of ideas, and social change in the NYU community and beyond.
Coming from all academic disciplines, past participants have focused on the "conventional," like Colonialism and Sexism, to the unique and personal, like Buckwheatism, Hip Hop Feminism, and Outofthebox-ism. No matter the subject, the participants' objective is to creatively explore and challenge their own ideologies while initiating meaningful discussion, which encourages diversity, understanding, and critical thinking. Students are encouraged to use a variety of media available to them, such as photos, paintings, audiotapes, videotapes, journals, or skits, to portray their –ISM project.
In the fall semester, students go through a competitive application process preparing and presenting their -ISM Project proposals. Receiving a grant commensurate with project expenses, selected students work throughout the spring semester researching their –isms and creating their original artistic pieces. During the creative process, the students have the option of collaborating with faculty and local community members. All participants share their work with the NYU community at CMEP's annual -ISM Gala.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The Mother of Gynecology
Anarcha was an African American slave woman. She was one of the seventy-five slaves who worked the Wescott plantation, just on the outskirts of Montgomery, Alabama.
Anarcha went into labor one day. Three days later, she was still in labor. Dr Marion Sims was called in to assist the delivery. He writes in his autobiography that he used forceps on the fetus’s head but that he really didn’t know what he was doing since he’d had so little experience with the device. We don’t know whether the baby survived the ordeal. We do know that the mother experienced several vaginal tears from the birthing. She became incontinent afterwards due to the damage.
A few days later, the master of the plantation sent Anarcha to Dr Sims hoping he could repair the damage to his slave, as she could not hold her bowls or bladder. As her master’s chattel, her condition reduced her value considerably.
Sims took in the patient reluctantly. He put her up on his examination table, on her hands and knees and, using a modified pewter spoon to expand the walls of her vagina, he accidentally released the pressure that held her uterus in an awkward position. Anarcha felt immediate relief as the change in air pressure helped her uterus to relocate back into its proper position.
Through an agreement with her master, Anarcha became Dr Sims's guinea pig. She regularly underwent surgical experiments, while positioned on Sims’s table, squatting on all fours, and fully awake without the comfort of any anesthesia. It was commonly accepted that African Americans had a higher tolerance for pain than their white counterparts. Commonly accepted but utterly wrong.
Anarcha’s fistula (from her vaginal tears) was repaired by Sims. Sims thus became the leading expert in repairing this damage that seemed to occur in a good number of births by slave women. Though Sims was sent many slave women with fistulas, we know from his biography that he experimented repeatedly on Anarcha, as well as two other slaves, Betsy and Lucy.
Anarcha was experimented upon, and drugged up later, not to ease her pain as much as to stifle her moans. It has been calculated that she had been operated on, perhaps, 34 times. She, Betsy, Lucy, and countless others helped Dr Sims hone his techniques and create his gynecological tools. Though on display in museums, many of Dr Sims’s tools have modern counterparts that are used today.
Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy left no written legacy. Slaves were forbidden to read and write, a crime punishable by death.
And though science today looks back on Sims’s work ambiguously, truly unsure as to his level of success, or whether he should be credited as the father of gynecology, we now know who the mothers of modern gynecology were: they were the nameless and faceless slave women upon whom Dr Sims experimented.
Today we have just three names: Anarcha, Betsy, and Lucy. It is our hope that these names will never be forgotten.
BERKELEY – VèVè Amasasa Clark, an associate professor of African American studies
at the University of California, Berkeley, and a literary scholar who coined
the term "diaspora literacy," died Dec. 1 at Alta Bates Hospital in Berkeley
after being found at home in a coma. She was 62.
VèVè Amasasa Clark
During her 16 years on the African American studies faculty at UC Berkeley, Clark
became an expert on such topics as African oral expression and the Francophone
novel. She was instrumental in helping create at UC Berkeley the nation's first
doctorate program in African diaspora studies.
"Her theorization of 'diaspora literacy' has functioned as a model for numerous
scholars in the field, here in the United States and in the Caribbean. She will
be sadly missed," said Suzette Spencer, an assistant professor of African American
studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and a former student of Clark's.
Clark's urbane manner was reinforced by her multilingualism. She spoke fluent
French, Spanish and Creole and had a fair understanding of Wolof, a language
spoken in Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. She co-edited "The Legend of Maya Deren"
(1985), a biography of the avant-garde filmmaker and theorist; and "Kaiso! Katherine
Dunham: An Anthology of Writings" (1978), about the iconic dancer and choreographer
who died last year.
"She was the epitome of a brilliant scholar, passionate thinker, gifted writer
and master teacher," said Ula Taylor, chair of UC Berkeley's Department of African
American Studies. "As a colleague, she was a woman of integrity who was committed
to encouraging younger faculty to embrace their own intellectual voice."
As a mentor and champion for black scholarship, Clark worked on the retention
of African American students and sought to provide a support network for graduate
students in African American, African and Caribbean studies. What many students
loved most was how she challenged them academically and intellectually.
"She could think so far out of the box, it was mind-blowing," said Lisa Ze Winters,
an assistant professor of English and Africana studies at Wayne State University,
Detroit, and a former student of Clark's. "Even as she pushed you, told you that
your work could be better, you knew she really wanted you to succeed, to exceed
your own expectations. In her mind, there were no limits."
Clark was born Dec. 14, 1944, and grew up in the New York City borough of Queens.
She was the only child of Alonso Clark, who was from North Carolina and belonged
to the worldwide historic Freemasonry fraternity, and of her Caribbean mother.
VèVè Clark was extremely close to her father, friends said. Both her parents
As a child, Clark first contemplated becoming a doctor and then a musician, according
to an interview she did in 1996 when she became the inaugural recipient of UC
Berkeley's Social Sciences Distinguished Service Award.
As an undergraduate in Queens College at the City University of New York, Clark
majored in romance languages. After receiving her bachelor's degree in 1966,
she continued her language studies at the Université de Nancy in France, where
she received a certificate d'études supérieures. She returned to Queens College
and received her master's degree in French in 1969.
During the 1970s, Clark headed west to UC Berkeley, where she worked as a teaching
assistant in French and then as a lecturer in what was then called Afro-American
studies. She also taught French at an experimental collegiate seminar program
on campus that was known informally as Strawberry Creek College.
Daphne Muse, director of the Women's Leadership Institute at Mills College in
Oakland, met Clark in 1973, when they were both teaching at UC Berkeley. The
two quickly became close friends, and Clark officiated at Muse's wedding.
"She would have me on the floor in tears with laughter. She had an uncanny ability
to mimic, and she was just brilliant," said Muse. "She was also incredibly generous,
both spiritually and financially."
In 1980, Clark was hired as an assistant professor of African and Caribbean literature
at Tufts University in Massachusetts. During that time, she worked on her Ph.D.
thesis in French and ethnology for UC Berkeley and received her degree in 1983.
In 1985, she received a faculty research award from Tufts to attend the United
Nations Conference for Women in Nairobi. A year later, Clark was promoted at
Tufts to associate professor of African and Caribbean literature.
In 1991, she returned to UC Berkeley as an associate professor of African American
studies. That same year, Clark won recognition for coining the phrase "diaspora
literacy" in a paper titled "Developing Diaspora Literature and Marasa Consciousness."
She defined the term as the ability to understand multi-layered meanings of stories,
words and folk sayings in African diaspora communities through the knowledge
and lived experiences of the community members' cultures.
Her method of using literature to convey experiences inspired students to look
beyond dry surveys and interviews for their research. That was the case for Erin
Winkler, who took Clark's "Diasporic Dialogues" course during her first year
in graduate school at UC Berkeley.
"As a social scientist who researches children's developing understandings of
race, I was not sure how a literature course would speak to my work," said Winkler,
an assistant professor of Africology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.
But Clark encouraged Winkler to use coming-of-age novels in her research, said
Winkler, "because they speak to experiences of race in ways that sometimes go
unspoken in surveys or interviews. What she modeled in her own scholarship had
a profound impact on my development as an interdisciplinary scholar."
During Clark's career, she received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim fellowship
for research on choreographer Katherine Dunham and a graduate fellowship for
study at the Université de Dakar, Sénégal. She also was a Rockefeller Foundation
fellow-in-residence at Brown University,
In 1996, after winning UC Berkeley's first Social Sciences Distinguished Service
award for "service that benefits undergraduate and/or graduate students," Clark
explained to an interviewer her passion for fostering a new generation of black
"We're all trained in something else: English, political science, French, sociology,"
she said of her own generation. "How many Ph.D.s do we have who actually came
though in African American studies or African diaspora studies? So, it's exciting
to me that we are about to develop a generation in this field."
Trica Danielle Keaton, an assistant professor of American studies and global
studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, fondly refers to Clark's
adages as "VèVèisms."
"'Joining the ancestors,' a precious VèVèism, is not an ending, but rather a
transition, something that feels akin to one of VèVè's 'zen moves' to higher
and safer ground," Keaton said. "I am humbled by the love that she bestowed on
us, her 'intellectual daughters and sons.' Indeed, I am honored to be but one
of so very many touched by her genius and generosity."
Clark is survived by a wide circle of friends, colleagues and students. A memorial
gathering in celebration of her life and legacy will be held on Friday, Dec.
14, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Lipman Room in UC Berkeley's Barrows Hall.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
i am trying to think about how trauma stifles my ability to respond to acts of violence in my community and around the world. is it that my trauma stops me from acting when i see other black women traumatized? what do we do next? is it these historical traumas that some how shift my body back to a time when i could not say anything, or bear the same trauma my sista experienced, or worse? is choosing not to act against our historical or contemporary trauma a mechanism for keeping our safe, in some way?
i am trying to think about how i can take back my body from trauma. what does an embodied resistance look like? perhaps, it looks like a body, full of light, harnessing her strength, and refusing to be frozen by trauma. perhaps, it is a body who refuses to have her tongue tied by fear. maybe embodied resistance is a heart that refuses to stop beating, that refuses to have the love pressed out of it.
embodied resistance, could be black women free from heart disease, diabetes, womb disease, mental disease. embodied resistance could be black women freeing their bodies from food, cultural pressures, drugs, alcohol, social pressures... as i write this i am sure embodied resistance is all of these acts and more.
i am trying to think about how to process this trauma against our sista megan williams in an intimate, real, transformative way. i am looking to find a way for individuals to actively participate in a healing movement for Megan Williams no matter whereever they are. here is a call to action for anyone interested in sharing healing evergy with our sista. you don't have to march, protest, write a letter. you don't have to leave your dorm room, you warm living room, you can even do it on the train, at a stop light, on the bus.
i am asking for everyone who reads this post to dedicate one minute of yogic practice, meditation, or breath work to Megan Williams. if you are not a yoga person to do one or two stretches for her. if you are advanced do a head stand or full lotus position for her. take a moment or two out of your day to breath deeply, complete some fire breaths, or kemetic breaths for Megan Williams.
as you are doing this, think about her healing, send out some well wishes for her, her family and our collective healing.
our collective action will shift the energy around this case. we will not be immobilized by trauma.
our embodied resistance is movement is breath meditation is the quest for our collective health and well-being
here is a poem for encouragement
i am a daughter of ntozake
of june of audre of nikki
of sonia of gwendolyn of jayne
of asha of lucille of rhodessa of anna
of ruth of elizabeth of toi of marilyn
of nina of cassandra of ella of fannie
of rosa of nayo of bernice of anjail of aretha
of toni of sapphire of ai of betty of pearl of bertha
of of of of of ofoofffffof fofofff
our collective heat is a back bend that strenghthens our walk
our collective heat is a visualization that wraps us in warmth
our collective heat is a moon salutation that greets the night
our collective heat is slow and concentrated breath deep in the diaphragm
our collective heat is heat is heat supple and pulsing and balancing the universe
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Two graduate students recently created a club that lets black female students at NYU who are interested in dramatic performance network among women with similar interests.
Gallatin graduate student Geneva Thomas and Tisch graduate student Ebony Golden created the Black Women in Performance Studies Work Group, in which members can "explore black women performance methodology," said Golden.
This methodology, or technique, is a way of reflecting the "tradition we're coming from" on the stage, Thomas said. Mentioning the work of performers such as Ntozake Shange and Anna Deavere Smith, Thomas said this method of performance "centers the subject on black women, on our stories and our words, and it is heard in a black woman's voice."
Golden said the group is a solution to something that was missing in the Performance Studies curriculum at NYU.
"We noticed there's been a gap in experiential practice created by black women," she said. "So in our network, we can explore this in a way that is not controlled by people outside of black women."
Though based in New York and open to undergraduate and graduate NYU students and artists in the community, Thomas and Golden's group membership extends to the country's borders, from students at Duke University in North Carolina to the University of California campuses.
"There are black women doing this work all over the place," Golden said.
Thomas and Golden are currently planning a jazz concert in mid-December, along with a winter mixer to "exchange ideas," Thomas said.
"We're also planning a one-day symposium in spring, which will include a keynote speaker and panel discussion," she said.
The group is still being developed. Thomas and Golden are recruiting members and have recently created a Facebook page.
Tisch graduate student Ayanna Williams, who recently joined the group, thinks that all students at universities like NYU - especially those in minority groups - want to have their voices heard.
"It's not so much about separating ourselves as it is about being seen and feeling supported," she said.
"As of yet, there is not an organization like this on campus," Williams said. "We feel like we are filling a void by creating a support network, not only for us now but also for those students to follow."
Emma Davis is a staff writer. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Woman Warrior Heals with Words and Wisdom- here is just a little bit about Sista Adama out of Atlanta, GA. Take a look at her website www.adamaspeaks.com and listen to her web radio show on wrfg.org.
After graduation from University of Florida with a B.A. in Psychology,
Presidential Awards, Scholastic, Leadership, and Organizational Awards and Honors, I returned to my birthplace, Atlanta, where I became a student
of Conscious Cosmic Citizenship and The Yunavasity of Cosmic Wisdom.
I began performing in 1984 with SOLAR at the New Orleans World Fair and as a solo performer in 1985 using the stage to minister to the hearts, minds, and souls of audiences through Creative Expressions of love, light, wisdom, and truth, in the media of rhythm, movement, verse, and sound.
Performances include appearances with the Staple Singers band in Piedmont Park, Black Family Reunion; with Positive Images Enterprises as model of Afrikan attire and spoken word at the World Congress Center, Atlanta Civic Center with Melba Moore, with Queens Historical Society as Queen Cadaka (Candace) in Queens of The Nile Now, Fox Theater, Egyptian Ballroom, Civic Center, Georgia Tech, Emory University, Georgia State University, Sisters Chapel,Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Morris Brown College, Morehouse College, Variety Playhouse, 7 Stages, Kingfest,KMLK Jr. Center for Social Change, Afrikan World Festival Detroit, MI, Sisterfire Festival with Aisha Khalil of Sweet Honey & The Rock,Washington D.C, New York, NY for Lenora Fulani, Presidential Candidate, National Black Arts Festival 1988,94,96 Renaissance Hotel with Phyllis Stickney, Chicago IL. International Brotherhood Conferenc, KAND,and radio performances and interviews with WDET Detroit, and WRFG Atlanta, in addition to numerous other community ceremonies, events, and activities.
I've worked as consultant for Wholistic Stress Control Institute, Inc. providing Life skills, Art of Being, and Poetry classes for imprisoned youth through Lorenzo Benn Youth Development Center, Metro Youth Detention Center, Dunbar Community Center, and over 2,000 Atlanta youth through the Department of Parks and Recreation in 1999. I also taught life skills to 4-12 year olds with Gate City Heritage Preparatory Day School, Horizons Private School, and in the Atlanta Public Schools. I worked as President and co-owner of Mother Earth's Adornments, Inc. committed to the adornment of the whole being, body, heart, mind, soul and more!¨
We maintained a retail outlet in Little 5 Points for 5 years housing both the "Beadery" specializing in custom adornments, creative consultation, repairs, and beads and findings from the world over and the "Eatery" specializing in strictly vegan cuisine, nutritional, dietary, and spiritual consultation, I produce and host a radio program with 89.3FM WRFG Atlanta called "The Meeting of The Inner Circle", providing inspirational, motivational, dealing with issues particularly, but not exclusively, pertinent to African Americans.
The program is formatted to introduce the music and works of local and national artists, musicians, healers, poets, authors, activists, as well as open phone lines to facilitate greater conscientiousness and communication with the listening audience.
I am an Inspirational Lifestyle Change and Wholistic Wellness Consultant providing spiritual, nutritional and dietary support to facilitate cleansing, healing, and regeneration of the body, heart, mind, and soul.
Click here to go to her site
Monday, November 26, 2007
Please check out an article on the Black Women in Performance Studies Work Group tomorrow in Washington Square News. Just click the link- http://www.nyunews.com/. Also if you have not joined the facebook page, please do so.
And please attend events by BWPSWG members...
JAZZ WITH A BLUE THREAD
Ayanna Williams featuring the Waterbabies and Ebony Golden (sharing poetic vibes)
Wenesday December 12th @ Ripple Bar
769 Washington Brooklyn
8pm, 2 sets
Look out next semester for...
The BWPSWG Winter Mixer and...
The BWPSWG First Annual One-Day Symposium
Featuring Works-in-Progress, Workshops and Panel Discussions
I'm not really interested in the kind of drama that appeals to folks who attend the Negro cotillions or high society balls. I'm here to present community art as state of the art. I'm talking about using art as a tool of transformation; to provide a space for people whose voices haven't been heard. Understand what I'm saying? - Rhodessa Jones
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Calling Black Women for Ethnographic Performance Process
It is that time. I have been in a bit of hibernation while I was cooking up a way to get you involved with a so fresh and so necessary improvisational, sista-circle, healing, performance opportunity.
I am Ebony Golden currently living in Manhattan and attending NYU. I call a few places home, most recently Durham, NC. While living in Durham I had the opportunity to study with and make trouble with some of the flyest sistas around. We made art with the people and shared it with the people. We healed ourselves everyday!
I would not be here at NYU right now if it wasn't for them. I am dedicating this process and this year at NYU to them: Mama Nia, Mama Asantewa, Mama Nayo, Mama Nana, Mama Jaki, Mama-Dr. Ahmad, Mama Pearl, Mama Dimples, Mama Theresa, Sista Kim Arrington, Sista Zachari, Sista Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Sista Jurina, Sista Alisha Gaines, Sista Serena, Sista Kriti, Sista Kai, Sista Shirlette, Sista Emily, Sista Kriti, Sista Kia/Mercedes, Sista Liz, Sista Amaris, Sista Namira, Sista Raina, Sista DeLana, Sista Nikki, Sista Alfreda, Sista Vikki, Sista Michelle, Sista Afyia, Sista Zelda, Sista Dannette, Sista Inga, Sista SimaFlower, Sista Paulette, Sista Manju
This process is in your honor along with my sistas from DC, TX, and in other spaces. You hold me up, thank you.
I am currently facilitating a performance project for Black women as a part of my Master's Thesis in Performance Studies based on black women's processes of healing from trauma, particularly historical and generational trauma. So how are your healing practices different from your mother's? How are they similar?
I am dedicated to my healing, the healing of the women in my family and extended family, and the world. This is a process we are creating everywhere, let's continue to tap in together and see what shifts.
This process that will have a few opportunities for performance, live and virtual, but mostly i am interested in articulating a poetics of womanist performance process and methodology that can be reproduced by us every where to heal ourselves and this world.
I need you to tell our story. A small group of sistas who are not afraid to undertake this work with me, whether they understand exactly where it is headed or not. Sistas who enjoy movement, music, writing, photography, people, good food, performing, making a fuss about us (black women), and who are not afraid to say we (black women) matter anywhere in this world.
1. 5-6 sistas to perform several times next semester
2. videographer/ photographer/ editor
5. stage manager
6. 'zine designer
7. web designer
1. voice recorders, tapes
2. gift cards (Target would be excellent)
3. performance space
4. video recorders, tapes, dvd
5. money, frequent flyer miles, train tickets, gas cards!!!
Your stories. Some of you are far away from me right now. But I would love to interview you about you and your healing process. Let's set up some time for phone interviews. I will be in TEXAS in December and NC in January so we can get together.
Every one is invited to NYC in May 08 to see a pivotal step in this journey. Can't wait.
oh and check out some of these sites to get an idea of what sistas are doing to inspire me: http://www.thatlittleblackbook.blogspot.com/, http://talitharise.blogspot.com/, http://bettertospeak.blogspot.com/, www.goldendharma.blogspot.com, http://atthekitchentable.blogspot.com/, http://brokenbeautiful.wordpress.com/, http://sweating-it.blogspot.com/,
Email me if you are interested!
Ebony Golden, MFA
Betty's Daughter Arts Collaborative, Director
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
i am really beginning to enjoy finding out what black women are doing in and through performance. i must say i have been a bit pissed off about "going back to school" and writing a statement of purpose that says here i am a black woman who wants to study black women and the institution saying wonderful, and now that i am here, they act like i am speaking a different language, like i didn't say what i know i said.
but anyways. i am literally in hot pursuit of us (black women)cause i ain't really interested in what anybody else got to say right now. i have had a lifetime of all of that, it is time for some balance. so here is the most recent supa fly sista revolutionary artist i can across, i just hate that i am just meeting her. but here she is any way, in the flesh..
i'm just saying though...we so fresh!
found at www.culturalodyssey.org
RHODESSA JONES is Co-Artistic Director of the San Francisco acclaimed performance company Cultural Odyssey. She is an actress, teacher, singer, and writer. Ms. Jones is also the Founder and Director of the award winning "Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women" which is a performance workshop that is designed to achieve personal and social transformation with incarcerated women. Ms. Jones just returned from leading a workshop at La Mama International Symposium for Directors in Spoleto, Italy. In the spring of 2004 Ms. Jones was honored with an Honorary Doctorate Degree from California College of the Arts. During the winter semester Rhodessa was Visiting Artist in Residence at Stanford University /Institute for Diversity in the Arts. In February 2004 Rhodessa performed the role of "Ruby" in August Wilson's King Hedley II at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater.
In November 2003 she was presented with a “GOLDIE Lifetime Achievement Award" presented by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In May 2003 Ms. Jones was awarded a Non-Profit Arts Excellence Award by the San Francisco Business Arts Council. In June 2002 Ms. Jones received an Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theater.
Throughout the Spring and Fall of 2002 she toured her most recent solo performance, Hot Flashes, Power Surges, and Private Summers. Some of the highlights of the tour included Anchorage, Alaska at Out North Contemporary Art House, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Shimberg Theater, and Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven, CT. While in residence at Yale, Ms. Jones led workshops and conducted Master Classes for the MFA students. She also lectured at the African American Cultural Center at Yale University and was honored with a Master's Tea hosted by Faculty of the Yale School of Drama.
A series of lectures offered by Ms. Jones, has helped her forge a place as a major social scientist of our time. Among these lectures are the following titles, Creative Survival, Creative Performance, Theater for the Twenty-First Century, and Women Saving Their Own Lives. Most recently in October 2002, Rhodessa provided the keynote speech at the Cabrillo College Women's Studies Conference and the Center Force Summit 2002 Conference, "Inside-Out: Fostering Healthy Outcomes for the Incarcerated and Their Families".
Her most recent directing credits include Sekou Sundiata's "Blessing The Boats", Will Power's "The Gathering" and Deborah Edward's "From Whores to Matriarchs". Ms. Jones is currently a featured artist contributing to Building the Code: Understanding Community Based Arts in America, a research and publication project sponsored by the National Performance Network.
In January 2002, Ms. Jones starred in Regina Taylor's Urban Zulu Mambo at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre in San Francisco.
In the Fall of 2001, The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women's six month residency at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, produced its eighth work, "Can We get There By Candlelight?", an original work based on the ancient Sumerian Myth of Inanna. In November 2001, Ms. Jones performed her award winning solo "Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women" at Fordham University's School of Divinity. At Fordham, she also participated in a panel, "Activism and Spiritualism in the 21st Century". In December of 2001, Rhodessa and two ex-offenders from The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women, were in residence at Rutgers University's Center for the Critical Analysis. The residency included a lecture by Ms. Jones, a performance workshop, a performance perusing the works of The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women, and a scholar's discourse on art as social change.
In the Winter of 2001, Ms. Jones was featured in Eve Ensler's award hit play, "The Vagina Monologues", produced by Theater on the Square. Following, in June 2001, her film collaboration "We Just Telling Stories" won "Best Documentary" at the San Francisco Black Film Festival. The film profiles Ms. Jones and her work with The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women in the San Francisco County jails. This award parallels the recent release of a book on Ms. Jones' work entitled, Imagining Medea: Rhodessa Jones and the Theater for Incarcerated Women. This book was released in December 2001 by author Rena Fraden, Ph.D. with a forward by Professor Angela Davis.
In July 2000, Ms. Jones was a featured teacher at LaMama Umbria, an international theater-training workshop in Italy, hosted by LaMama ETC of New York. In May 2000, she directed the nationally acclaimed world premiere of Erin Cressida Wilson's Trail of Her Inner Thigh for Campo Santo at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco. In the same year, Ms. Jones was honored as Working Woman of the Year by the Working Women's Theater Festival. She premiered her new show Hot Flashes, Power Surges, and Private Summers at this festival. "Hot Flashes" is one of Ms. Jones' most recent works in her long legacy as an innovative performance artist. She creates autobiographical and provocative material that integrates inter-disciplinary performance and that utilizes film, comedy, theater and movement.
Born in Florida to a migrant laborer family, Rhodessa Jones is a proud grandmother of her daughter's girl child Chaz.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
oh jilly from philly
The following was presented at the Neither Model nor Muse Symposium at Duke University a few weeks ago. The panel was Women Engage Hip Hop and featured Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Mark Anthony Neale, and Rachel Ramist. Take a look at the video post after you read this, it is indeed relevant.
I Speak Your Name
Queen Latifah, Jean Grae, Roxanne Shante, Mystic, Madusa, Bahamadia, Sha-Rock, Mecca, MC Lyte, Lauren Hill, Erykah Badu, Salt, Peppa, Juana Burns, Dania Birks, Michelle Franklin (JJ Fad), Deidra “Spindarella” Roper, Cheryl “Salt” Wray, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, Da Brat, Mia X, Lady of Rage, Yo-Yo, The Ghetto Twins, Foxy Brown,
Lil Kim, Missy Elliot, Left Eye, T-Boz, Chilli, Godessa, Cuba, Chi, Sistamatic, Trina, Smirk, Kasumba, D-Unik, Kato, Jill Scott
Unearthing the Up-rock: Space, Body, and the Black Woman’s Voice in Hip Hop
I recently viewed Counting Headz at the Black Lily festival. Counting Headz is a film about politics surrounding women emcees in South Africa. I left the film energized, enriched, and enlivened by their ability to articulate the modes by which black women are evolving this cultural practice while refusing to deny their womaness. I was excited about experiencing these sistas in stero, on the big screen, rhyming, breaking, tagging, visibly with a degree of hyper-visibility in a space that truly belonged to them. With the audience’s gaze fixated on them. I was excited about voices filled the space. How their voices their beats reverberated around the room. The voices as multi-dimensional expressive dimensions that took up space. That had not been flattened out to breasts, and asses, and hollow/one-sided images or performances of male-manufactured black womaness.
Hortense Spillers speaks about space in Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe specifically when she talks about being trapped in “oceanic time and space”. Spillers is talking about how the body, during the Middle Passage, was literally moving through time, as in chronologically, and space, as in from the west coast of Africa to the Americas, but being bound and restricted from physical movement. In a lot of ways I see the suppression of black women’s voices as a similar means of looking at how hip hop is moving, how black women are moving on the margins of hip hop culture in a space of restriction.
In the span of time it took to watch the film, I felt like black women had not only been freed from the bound-movement Spillers talks about, but also that we had travelled maybe just a little further toward society where black women’s voices would be could be allowed to resound freely.
Jill Scott’s Hate on Me helps me to further think about the black female body in relationship to the marginalization of the black female hip hop expressive culture. “Jilly from Philly” deserves time and space in this conversation because of 1. her stature as being a thick sista, and dynamic voice which oscillates between spoken word, funk, rock, “what eva it be” literally taking up space and 2. because of her how her career has been framed at times by the co-signing of black men: DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Roots, and even recently Cornell West and Tavis Smiley in the video for “Hate on Me”. So her expressive movement being bordered by black male co-signers. Most of us who are familiar with Scott’s work know that a majority of it explores her relationships to or with men. What they do to her, what she does to them, pleasure, lust, desire and so forth. But there is a larger meta-narrative happening in the positioning of men in her work that we should think about.
The lyrics to “Hate on Me” reveal the manner in which hegemonic structures remind black women that we are not enough. No matter how we bend nature to the whims of society we will never be enough. No matter how black women over extended ourselves how we have positively influenced every aspect of this world, we still are not enough and these super-woman performances do not seem to change the large degree of “hateration” inflicted on black women.
The marginalization of black women in hip hop is away in which we can think about a larger narrative of the hegemonic control of public and reproductive space, women’s space, artistic space, imaginative space that has a long standing tradition in this country.
So black women hip-hop artists are doing an immense about of cultural work in asserting their expressiveness. They are challenging the heteronormative and phallocentric space which privileges what Paula Giddings refers to as the Cult of True Womanhood which relegates women to the private sphere, which relegates women’s expressiveness/productiveness/performances to that of domesticity.
What we are talking about here is the female presence as voice, as body, as an articulation of self-actualization outside the control and sphere of male dominated and narrated spaces. So black women hip-hop artists are shifting the narrative, the narrated space, the script of experience, turning it on its head. This is about a reclaiming of voice, a reclaiming of space, and a change in the landscape of folk expressive culture.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The Spiritual Liberation Movement: a Model for Creative Resistance and Cultural Awareness
"Spirituality is the language of the next milenium. Ignorance was the language of the last two milenia."
Yalen & Cohen, "Coexistence and the Arts" (article posted at www.mysapce.com/mamashieroglyphics on my blog)
This semester has encouraged me to think critically about the role of spirituality in social justice work. Partially, because spiritual activism is one of my research interests but also because we are thinking a lot about the body, land, agency, and desire all of which are apart of a spiritual practice as I see it. As I continue to think about performance and activism, I am called back to North Carolina and the phenomenal social justice workers I am work with.
One organization Stone Circles (http://www.stonecircles.org/) is accomplishing phenomenal deeds using a model called Spiritual Liberation. If anyone is interested in seeing a short documentary, let me know. At the risk of sounding reductive I want to share a little about this movement as it relates to Yalen and Cohen's article.
Yalen and Cohen write, "Arts-and-culture-based peacebuilding practices simultaneously engage people’s bodies, emotions, and spirits, as well as their intellects, whereas more conventional practices such as dialogue and negotiation rely solely on people’s rational capacities." I think it is important to spend time processing how spirit(uality) is activated and practiced through artistic and cultural practices.
In Spiritual Activism and Liberation Spirituality Claudia Horwitz and Jesse Maceo Vega-Frey detail the major tenets of Spiritual Liberation (http://www.stonecircles.org/thoughts/writing/liberation.html). They explain that Spiritual Liberation is concerned with:
* a deep commitment to spiritual life and practice
* a framework of applied liberation
* an orientation towards movement-building and
* a desire for fundamental change in the world based on equity and justice.
These ideas are both applied to individual liberation and collective liberation as well. What is so brilliant about this model is that each of the tenets described above is explored and implemented artistically and in community. I have been thinking a lot about how art moves, transcends, and builds something new as Anna Deavere Smith encourages in her book Letters to a Young Artist. That is precisely the question. How does art create something new? Moreover, how does spirituality facilitate an artistic process that transports individuals and communities out of trauma to a new and different space? Is this possible? Is it practical? Is it fair to expect those most oppressed by state violence to be able to pull themselves out of trauma? How does reliving that trauma through performance do any of that work?
Yalen and Cohen reveal that, "Arts and culture are important means through which people and communities come to understand, express, and communicate their ideas, emotions, needs, hopes, concerns, and memories". I agree. Art elicits a process by which we can bring memories from the corners, from the forgotten spaces of the past to the hear and now. But that process extends past the present, it must. Artistic and cultural practices also serve as tuning devices. Tuning individuals into themselves and their communities. Just as two drummers will eventually breath in unison, it is possible that a community that creates art together will eventually be tuned into each others needs and desires for social and civic movement.
Yalen and Cohen write, "In the aftermath of violence, to be convincing,
communication and learning must reach people’s bodies and
spirits, as well as their minds". Diana has kept "embodied practice" in play almost every class meeting. I believe she wants us to consider how the body is situated in the traumatic events. What is the body feeling? How is the "entire" body responding to various events. So the body is not just an intellectual being but also a spiritual being as well. The the practices of the body, in response to trauma or otherwise, should be both intellectual as well as spiritual.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Greetings lovely people,
It is oh so important for us to remember. remembering is an "embodied practice" as explained by Diana Taylor almost everyweek in our Performance and activism class. As I continue to think about how this is specific to black women I can not stop thinking about mama nina. she got something to say about both embodied practices and remembering. we must remember. our legacy as black women and not let it get washed away in a sea of everybody's stuff. cause we got a particular stuff that we need to pay close attention to. As you watch this piece, think about how mama nina "works" as Teish describes in her book Jambalya. please pay attention to her speaking in tongues and dance. what can the body say that words can not, that piano can not. how does nina's dress, the grain of her voice, and her omnipresent stare inform her performance. how is nina's performance an act of conjuring or what black women do every day-make a way out of no way? do share your thoughts.
THE PROJECT FOR TRANSFORMING THRU PERFORMING:
re/placing Black womanly images
THE PROJECT FOR TRANSFORMING THRU PERFORMING proposes to enter the black woman’s performing voice into the scholarly discussion surrounding gendered identity as metaphor for all women and oppressed peoples, using “witness” texts. These witness texts are based on the words of real women and serve as places of memory; memory as it relates to the Greek martyr, which connotes witness. “Kitchen Prayers” dramatizes the national and international narratives of real women collected by THE PROJECT. By using the kitchen as the central metaphor for this work, we achieve several ends. First we (re)create a space in which women are made central. Second, we shift scholarly attention to the experiences, music, literature, public and private conversations and everyday behaviors of “ordinary”, easily forgotten Black women. These become the key sources (the witness texts) for exploring the meanings that women assign to mundane as well as extraordinary events in their lives. Finally, in discussions held after the dramatic presentation, we place scholarly commentary next to the witness texts and the narratives of our audience. We use these narratives to challenge and support each other. The work of THE PROJECT emerges then as a living manifestation of a deliberately multidisciplinary, ever evolving Black feminist scholarship.
Since the events of 9/11, the world has changed and so it is appropriate that the focus of THE PROJECT adjust to our new reality. When the world dialogue ratchets up to talk of war and retribution it is overwhelmingly a male dialogue. Men are considered the experts, the keepers of knowledge. In keeping with our mission to make central the ordinary woman’s voice, we want to add that voice to this predominantly male dialogue. By revolving this year’s “Kitchen Prayers” presentations around the words of women living under the realities of war, famine and oppression, THE PROJECT FOR TRANSFORMING will try to capture, reflect and understand the impact of 9/11 and other acts of global terrorism on women and their children around the world.
I found out about this dynamic elder sista doing performance work. You should check her out if you get a chance.
She was featured in this online magazine called Fathom http://www.fathom.com/feature/122665/index.html#
Transforming Through Performing: Oral History, African-American Women's Voices and the Power of Theater
From: University of Michigan | By: Glenda Dickerson
EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION | [ Glenda Dickerson ]What role does theater play in the larger discourses of politics, gender, race and history? In this interview, writer/director Glenda Dickerson (right), director of the Center for World Performance Studies at the University of Michigan, discusses the power of performance to transform the way we see, understand, think and respond. In Kitchen Prayers, her evolving series of dramatic performances, Dickerson privileges the actual words of women, accumulated from contemporaneous newspapers, magazines, broadcast media and other sources from across the world. This performance dialogue--acted by an entirely African-American female cast--weaves together strands of myth, song, painful reality and uplifting realizations. The result is a unique theatrical experience that draws its power from oral history and gives voice to those who would otherwise remain silent.
Fathom: How do you envision the social responsibility of theater?
Glenda Dickerson: I stopped directing, for the most part, traditional plays a long time ago. I got interested back in the early 1980s in making drama from oral history. I did a project called Eel Catching in Setauket, and it was built on the African-American community in Setauket, Long Island. They had been there since before the American Revolution, an early-nineteenth-century free black settlement. The people at Stony Brook, where I was teaching, did not know anything about this group of people, so I became interested in documenting the community and I made a piece from that. Ever since then, working with oral history had a resonance for me. I saw how it transformed people when they could sit and witness the dignity of their own lives, how transformatory that was for them and for other people in the audience. For me, this began to be the most important work that I could do: to try to capture a different reality than traditional drama.
I think the arts are important and I think the arts have a place; they have a task to perform in bringing about social justice or commenting upon society. Particularly since September 11, a lot of artists have responded very quickly. Usually art takes time to cogitate, to ruminate and reflect, and then it begins to speak on the issue. But I think September 11 brought about a number of immediate responses from the arts community. So I think the arts do play a part always in transforming society, and I think since September 11, the whole way we think about making art has changed.
Fathom: Kitchen Prayers appears to be a tapestry of different types of dramatic elements: spirituals, Greek drama and myth, oral history. How do you weave together strands from history and classical drama to respond to current events?
Dickerson: "Transforming thru Performing, Re/placing Black Womanly Images"--this is the larger project out of which Kitchen Prayers emanates--is premised on a couple of ideas. One is that we want to add the performer's voice to the scholarly discourse surrounding identity because the question of identity and the intersection of race, class and gender has traditionally been a scholarly discussion. The voice of the artist and the performer, if included at all, is typically brought in as punctuation for stodgy academic proceedings: academics read scholarly papers, and then the artist performs. You do not see the artist sitting down at the table and speaking as an equal. That was one of the thoughts that I had: something magical could happen if you included the performer--not the performing voice, but the performer's voice--speaking as a scholar.
The other idea I had is that the ordinary woman, whose life is a dissertation, has a lesson to teach us in this scholarly discourse on identity because that woman knows who she is. She does not need academic books to tell her who she is or to validate her life.
Fathom: Implicit in the title Kitchen Prayers is a reference to spirituality. How does spirituality inform your work?
Dickerson: I worked with a wonderful Chinese scholar in performance studies named Haiping Yan. She asked a mutual friend, "Does Glenda believe in God?" Haiping had been raised by radical communists as part of the revolution in China, and while she admires and is moved by Kitchen Prayers, it was confusing to her because I call the actors "saints" and "prayerful performers." That is very important because I do not want this work to be facile or perfunctory, and I do not want the actors to be approaching a traditional dramatic character where they might construct a background, discover the conflict, and identify the obstacles. We do all of these things to develop the characters, of course, but that is not enough. With this work, I am asking these women to stand in with honor and respect for the real woman. Sometimes that real woman can witness the act and she can say, "Amen," if it is acceptable.
That is the spiritual part of it, and it is not a Christian spirituality even though we sing, for example, "We are Soldiers in the Army." We sing those old songs, but we sing them out of tradition, not dogma. We sing them to acknowledge the shoulders we stand on. It is about the honor and respect we pay our ancestors.
Fathom: How do you assemble the voices that you are honoring?
Dickerson: This year, since we were doing Kitchen Prayers as a response to September 11, it took a little different turn.
Ordinarily, I go here and there and I record narratives. My colleague Jacqueline Mattis and I started working on a project called "Speaking Exile." We went to Tanzania to interview women from other countries such as Rwanda who have come to Tanzania seeking safe harbor. We wanted to talk to them about how they define home and how they passed on their culture to their children when they are not living at home. That was going to be the Kitchen Prayers for this year.
I had collected these narratives and then was going to transcribe them, look at them to see what themes emerge, and make the drama. But then September 11 happened and so we put this on hold. On September 11, I could not locate my daughter in New York until two o'clock. That was just so horrible. After talking about this, a colleague asked me to consider whether there was a way to extend that moment when I could not find my daughter to other women and their children and talk about a sense of global loss?
This idea intrigued me, and so that is how this Kitchen Prayers was born. To find new narratives, we read the papers and listened to NPR and went on the Internet. I started looking for stories of women and their children living under war, famine, all kinds of terror, and we accumulated many tales: that became one section. Another section was called "Patriotism, The Splendid Experiment." The actors and I talked together about what it means to be patriotic in this time: that became part of the play. Aeschylus became part of the play, as did the story of Niobe. Many years ago, I did a production of The Trojan Women and I set it in Africa. I felt, even back then, that the language of oppression is the same the world over. This is a Greek tale, but it is also an African tale, and it becomes the story of slavery. They are always real, those old Greek myths; they contain all of the elements of modern day suffering and anguish. You can always find one that speaks to the moment.
Fathom: You collect different women's voices from different cultures, and perform them by an entirely African-American female cast. What does the black woman's performing voice bring to your project?
Dickerson: We enter the black woman's voice as a metaphor for all women and for all oppressed people. We do this for a couple of reasons. We do this because we believe that the universal is found in the particular, but it is usually the white particular that stands for universality. So we are saying, quite controversially, that the black woman's particular experience is particular enough to be as universal as, say, Death of a Salesman. We say that because, in the American place, there is no American history without black history. It does not exist. You have to have black to define white. America has to have an oppressed person, a caste or class to define itself against, better than or liberator of. We are saying, No. We define ourselves and we define America for you through ourselves. It is a controversial stance that I take deliberately.
Fathom: How would you characterize your inclusion of female voices in the typically male-dominated dialogue of war and politics that emerged out of September 11?
Dickerson: When we are talking about war and retribution in this world, on this planet, it is always a male dialogue. When you look at CNN, ABC, NBC, you primarily find men talking, arguing, pontificating. It is their story.
In this context, the woman's voice is not deemed valuable and is not present, and therefore, a large part of the story gets left untold. In Kitchen Prayers, I try not to worry myself with how many bombs did they drop? How many caves did they look in? Will they ever find Bin Laden? I want to tell this other side of the story, the side of the story that cannot be told because the woman's voice is left out. And that story is not only the story of suffering and oppression. That is a large part of the story, because while we are focusing on these caves trying to locate Bin Laden, women are being raped and killed in Rwanda, Sudan, Sierra Leone. Women are starving themselves to death in Turkey. All these other stories that are happening just do not come to the surface.
Some have reported that in Pakistan the rape of women has become so common that it has another name: it's called "lying down"--implying that you just lie down and take it. Another quotation is, "Rape is so common; it is more common than the bite of a mosquito." Those are the stories that I have to tell no matter what. I want to tell those stories, but I also want to include the voice of women who are working and fighting against these kinds of oppression, because you never hear about them either. This is happening all over the world.
Fathom: Where did you find your own voice as an actress and a writer?
Dickerson: I wrote actually about my coming to voice in an essay called "Wearing Red: How a Rowdy Band of Charismatics Learned to Say NO." It is about a production of an idea I directed based on the poetry of Alexis DeVeaux. This was in the 1980s in New York. We made this play and we produced it ourselves. I had been making my living as a professional director, but often you wait for the phone to ring, for somebody to call and offer you a job, then you go do it. You get your paycheck and you go home.
But these women at the One World Café in New York, in the Village, they were so independent. They said, we can go look for a theater and just do it ourselves. This notion of directing and producing something ourselves, that was life transforming for me. And in the process of working on this show and producing it ourselves, that was my coming to voice.
This experience taught me that you can do it yourself, but it also taught me that you can say it yourself because I was never satisfied. I started out making plays even as a young woman teaching at Howard University. I was always making things. I was adapting The Trojan Women to an African setting. When I was making plays, I was happiest. When I went to New York, I realized I could make it myself, say it myself, and do it myself. It really changed my life. It was not too long after that when I directed a play on Broadway, only the second African-American woman to do so.
After this, I also realized that I do not need to do this. I went back to teaching. Ever since then, I have been moving toward where I am now: making plays from real people's lives, interacting with scholars--reading what they write and thinking about what they think. I finally feel like I can answer the question, Does Glenda believe in God? I can answer it with many pages of talk. It is definitely not a Yes, but it is definitely not a No. Everything in between: that is what my life has come to.
Center for World Performance Studies
Thursday, October 04, 2007
U, Black Maybe: Another Look at Global Positioning, and the Hopes of a Radical Overthrow
Suggested Readings and Viewings
Raul Zurita: Interview teleconference via skype (this maybe archived on www.hemispericinstitute.com)
Diamela Eltit: E. Luminata
Common Sense: Finding Forever (especially the trak U, Black Maybe)
George Schuyler: Black No More
Cheryl I. Harris: Critical Race Theory, The Key Writings That Formed the Movement, (especially the article by Harris titled "Whiteness and Property"
Josephine Baker: Princess Tam Tam (the film)
Jill Scott: The Real Thing (especially How It Make You Feel)
Amiri Baraka: In Town
Agosto Boal: Games for Actors and Non-Actor (play the construction of power game)
Nelly Ricard: Margins and Institutions
1 out of 40. this must be a project. "but we are all academics, we are all intellectuals". I must be clear like water, like purified air. I am stuck in a nightmare. You have a tongue that speaks for the universe? ask her and she will speak her own skin. "well in my analysis, in my opinion, in my estimation". Remove your language from my body, it is not your domain, it is not your space, your territory to ejaculate on/in, leave fulfilled, and spent.
This must be film where the end is improvised is acted out real time is scriptless. "only history will finish this action". but this, I can not burn away without casting myself in effigy. This bruise here to the cheek, or the strips of loose forearm flesh does not reveal an absence in this world. This world expects a silence my silence my death is their welcomed peace. then they will use my blood as tobasco and celebrate their good deed of ridding this world of all the blackness that insistent stench resilient stench they fight against.
This must be a project. Somebody is dissertating me at this moment. "oh well you know why her butt is so big, her thighs so wide, her hair so knotty"? the wheels in the cage go round and round. This must be an experiment to see when and how I will break down, break away, break out, break lose, break free.
Someone is monitoring my stillness and marveling. Someone is monitoring my smile and marveling. Someone is tracing my steps through the machine. "this is unbelievable. has she lost all will to fight?" "we have won, let's retreat, let's vacate".
Little darkie Josephine sitting in the corner
Little darkie Josephine sitting on the stoop
Little darkie Josephine sitting in the corner
Little darkie Josephine don't know what to do.
Is what they want to wash away blackness like dandruff from their scalps? This must be an experiment to see how far I can bend over bend back loosen like elastic before I….
What I am talking about is real simple. What I am saying is a theory of blood and bone and legacy. This is not an existential dilemma. Ask the women swirling in my head. Ask the women I call mama sista. This is not for play-play. What I am talking about here is a heaviness at the base of neck and real hollowness in my throat where my words get trapped. There is nowhere to hide away from this shit. There is no way not to be a warrior. Is there?
I'm talking about the constant slap across the face. And this world's urge (in our bodies) towards whiteness. Just go on and be white. Just go on and be white? The price, my death. The price, my bones. The price, my tomorrow. Fuck you.
Am I the metaphor? I must be, and this here must be some sort of quack-science poemetical experiment.
How many pills
How many pills
How many pills
How many pills
How many pills
I gotta swallow to go numb
No but really do these __________ really expect my silence forever? They must be doing market research so see how long they got to fuck wit me before I flip this thing. They must think they got time. They say,
Look how fragile
And the hair almost don't need no lye
And the tone the questioning inflection always is almost there
And look they so disoriented they don't know where home is
And see they don't even want to talk about that place or that story they made up
This must be a dream. But my limbs are numb. And street washing is on heavy rotation in my rapid eye movement. There is no sleep really. Just a stillness like running on a tread mill. Just a …
They can't think we ain't got nothing to say. They can't think we all wanna be like them.
What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness? What is the cost of blackness?
"Can't come around
They gon' wanna bring you down
No one knows just what's inside
Doing dope and doing time
Why they messing with your mind
Calendar of Events
- June 1- Official Launch of Betty's Daughter Arts Collaborative
- May 10, 7 pm, Gumbo YaYa @ Roses and Bread Women's Poetry Reading, Performance/Body Insallation, Brecht Forum NYC
- May 10, all day, Experimental Theatre Final Performances NYU
- May 7-8, all day, Gumbo YaYa, MA Symposium NYU
- April 23, 6 pm Gumbo YaYa, -ism Gala NYU
- March 26, 7 pm, Gumbo Yaya/ or this is why we speak in tongues, Tisch School of the Arts, Forum Series
- Feb. 7, Brecht Forum, 730, moderating NO! film screening
- Jan. 4, Common Ground Theatre, 8 pm, performance art night---Holding Space (a love poem for Meghan Williams)
- Dec. 12, Ripple in Brooklyn, 8 pm, sharing poetic vibes for a jazz/blues show
- Oct 27, Duke University, 9:45 am, Women Engage Hip-Hop Panel
- Sept 14, PS @ Tisch, How Much Can the Body Hold
- Sept 19, Righetous AIM, NC A & T
- August 31-Sept 2, 75TH Highlander Anniversary
- Anti-prison Industrial complex performance, Durham, NC
- April 30 Shout Out, Carrboro, NC
- April 24 Fingernails Across Chalkboard Reading, Washington, DC
- April 14 Poetry Month Reading, Durham, NC
- 3/31 Ringing Ear Reading, Chapel Hill, NC
- Wednesday 3/21 - 7 pm Miller Morgan Auditorium, Performative Healing and the Work of Ntozake Shange, Lecture
- ► 2009 (23)
- ► 2008 (23)
- ▼ December (7)
- ► November (4)
- seeking womb/ performing self and still working ou...
- Jill Scott
- Counting Headz Promo
- working my rainbows~~~performance and the spiritua...
- Nina Simone: Four Women
- more workings by Prof. Dickerson
- black women in performance~~~working their rainbow...
- anna deavere smith
- U, Black Maybe (a choreopoem) U, Black Maybe: ...