Category Archives: actress

some days I feel like, lorraine hansberry

 

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Artists can be inspired by the simple things. The sudden swarm of birds on branches to a nostalgic smell of perfume or cologne. When I abandon concerns of the world, I am able to be inspired by almost anything because my senses are without judgement and I can apply optimism to everything! Perhaps this was the process Lorraine Hansberry encountered when she created the timeless theatrical masterpiece, A Raisin in the Sun.

She was inspired by the poem entitled, Harlem, by Langston Hughes. This was one of the first poems I memorized and one of the first I made my nephews memorize! This poem inspired her to write the play that put her in the history books. With her play, Raisin in the Sun, she became the first African American woman to write a play performed on Broadway and the youngest and fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. The success of this play led to it being translated in 35 different languages and inspired the talented Nina Simone to write her song, To Be Young, Gifted and Black. After Hansberry’s death, her husband was inspired to adapt a remaining collection of her work into a play with the same name of Simone’s song.

Art is a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy… The origin of art derives from the antiquity of documenting life or scribing so it is not surprising that this string of inspirations are connected. Some days I feel like Lorraine Hansberry when I pick up a pen and begin to write after hearing a song or note on from a saxophone or analogy from a poem. I get inspired by people and situations around me and of course I hope I will leave inspiration to others.

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Back to my roots, Theatre

I am still floating on a cloud where dreams come true…

My art interest started in theatre, as an actress, back in elementary school.  That interest eventually led to writing, in several genres, and performance in poetry or oral tradition of interpretation.  I wrote, produced and directed a one act play in Los Angeles a few years back and I did the same for a one woman show in which I portrayed, Afeni Shakur, the ex-black panther and mother to the late Tupac Shakur.  Anyone can be a playwright by simply writing a play.  My goal had always been to be contacted by a theatre company and sent a contract to collect for Royalty Fee’s.  That finally happened to me in August 2015 and it has been a surreal journey up until the other night when I was handed the tickets and program to the production of my play, Hope’s Return.

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A few years back, I read an article on LaVena Johnson.  An African American soldier who had just graduated from high school in Missouri and enlisted into the army. After only serving eight weeks in Balad, Iraq, Johnson became the first woman to die in Afghanistan or Iraq from the state of Missouri.  Her family was notified that her death was ruled a suicide from a gun shot wound to the right side of her head with a M-16 rifle. Upon her family viewing the body, the gunshot was on the left side of her head along with a black eye, broken nose, several missing teeth, scratches and teeth marks on her upper body, her back and right hand burned, her vaginal area bruised and lacerated and lye had been poured into her vagina.  The Army ruled her death a suicide in 2005.

Continue reading Back to my roots, Theatre

Bad Girl by Elizabeth Herron

I am thrilled about the amazing roles that are being written for black actresses on TV today. These roles tell stories of flawed, imperfect, mistake covering up bad girls who occasionally erase business emails from servers they keep in their homes (oops – I’m mixing up some thangs!) I LOVE it!!!

A friend reached out to me recently because she wanted to find a dance class for her 11 year old. It turned out to be a bigger task than she thought. Her daughter is an athletic young lady with a strong and independent spirit and a thirst for movement. All the classes she was finding were ‘cute’ and in the style of pageantry. She attended a recital and the girls (Jonbenet Ramsey look-a-likes) looked like baby whores about to take a stroll. My friend said her spirit froze at the thought of her daughter on stage in that capacity. She opted for martial arts instead.

As a culture, we encourage girls to maintain a good girl image through the idea of ‘cute.’ My childhood teaches me that the moments of great growth and revelation came from moments when I was bad. These moments inspired epic conversations, debates and soul searching that would not have come about if I was always encouraged to stay in a perpetual state of ‘cuteness.’

I’m thankful in my own reflections about the way my mother embraced my bad girl tenancies and in correcting me, she did not make me feel horrible for having these impulses. It has helped me as an adult because I am not afraid to wear tight clothes, travel to forbidden foreign lands by myself, I am not afraid to speak my opinion and I am certainly not afraid to laugh out loud. Thank you JoeAnn Herron for allowing me to speak with my demons, explore my dark places and help channel them sweetly into my light.

TV shows like Empire are a cultural phenomenon because they demystify the ‘cuteness’ that traps our souls into small pink boxed categories. As tribute to Cookie and in honor my mother’s spirit (and my Grandmother Mary’s spirit), I will execute my version of the ‘Cookie Walk’ every Wednesday and beyond.

 

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Elizabeth Herron is a stage director/arts educator who currently resides in Kansas City.  A KC native, Elizabeth resided in Harlem for 14 years and worked as a teaching artist and stage director.  She worked for The Apollo Theater, Lincoln Center Theatre, Lincoln Center Institute, Urban Bush Women and the University of Kentucky – Lexington where I was a guest artist. She looks forward to further adventures in American Theater and beyond.

some days i feel like, angela bassett

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there are so many adjectives synonymous with her name. when you think of her pristinely manicured appearance and pout formed lips. or the fiery dance in her eyes that’s the tango or perhaps it’s the Chicago two-step. her acting is like a highly trained opera singer with undisputed range. undisputed. composed of multifariousness, angela bassett.

it’s usually mid summer when I feel like perfectly ripe melon. any melon. the one that is the life of the party and mixed with salad or cut as pretty decoration on a toothpick for some spirits. both will be used with a multitude of adjectives for the salty and sugary mixture of the palates. and I am the desire to entertain the crowd. yes, this is around mid june when I ripen.

angela bassett is not the summer. she is mother nature. meaning she is seasoned with acknowledging her purpose and poignancy, some days I feel like angela bassett when my shine lasts beyond the party or stage lights. an amazing talent and my absolute favorite actress.

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some days i feel like, jada pinkett smith

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some days I feel like, jada pinkett smith. I think together we would chase storms. we would roll the thunder in a sports utility vehicle and run down the eye of the storm! we would shave our heads and dress up in an evening gown and pose like “on purpose planted sunflowers”. we would yell into mics and blend our blues and hip hop to heavy metal music in front of an audience of thousands!

I can only imagine her quest for rearing independent thinking children. I can only imagine her desire to remain a desire to a handsome and witty man. jada pinkett smith has seemingly lived the way her childhood friend tupac shakur explained, ‘telling the truth before about yourself before someone else does.’ Her choice of work parallels her mindset as she now lends the influence of her spirit to philanthropy work and activism.

I remember watching her give an interview one time and she mentioned she considered herself to be “viciously ambitious”. yes, some days I feel like jada pinkett smith, especially when I feel beyond my skin!

some days i feel like a skyscraper

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I feel part of the smaller story. I feel part of the larger story. Skyscrapers are like small cities with thousands of people that live and work there. Their foundations and superstructures provide different appearances. These tall buildings are seen as symbols of power and greatness. They are improved in live time to stand the test of weather and the moods of mother nature. Yes, some days I feel like a skyscraper… especially when I began spoken word in Los Angeles.

It was clearly the congregated movement of griots and sages before us that declared the time again. Only the shadowless and their corners really thought “they started something new” or “took it to the next level”. Only time would be able to determine those thoughts just as the medu netter has spoken for centuries in the pyramids. Only time, still will reveal that.

One would have thought the time was 1961 and women were still only allowed to be house attendants. When in fact it was 2001. Writing and performing poetry was not new to me. I was shocked that it was being critiqued and shared in seemingly ‘non art environments’. Coffee shops, lobbies of recreational centers, after hours at businesses and theatres in need of publicity. The art form was taking on a new timeframe and would need new walls to hold it’s voice.

In an already big city. A city with the most highly structured designed skyscrapers, one would think she could just pick up where June Jordan left off. Just take the notebook from Gwendolyn Brooks and turn the page. But it wasn’t like that for Jaha Zainabu, Bridget Gray and Rachel Kann, my “come up” crew. None of us were novices to the arts. Together we were decades of stories, poems, lectures, theatre and visual art. Together we split the city and nestled our art amongst those who neighbored our homes. We supported our venues week after week and then by bequest, politics were engaged in our arts but this time the agenda was to undermine. From history our community arts had a focus of meeting weekly to “build and feed each other”. These new politics were of division because all of us would not be able to eat. In fact, it happened so fast we weren’t even able to decide on our seasonings! And many owned microwaves and had never lit a stove or practiced patience with a crock pot. But she/we stood there.

One would have thought it was 1961 they way we were over looked to perform feature poetry shows. One of us was even told, “women can’t hold the audience attention to do a feature segment”. And week after week, we went and supported the self served. And we began to see the bending of the art. This was called open mic, to disavow the necessity for us to hold one another accountable. We were allowed to do and say anything and not read or study and some times not even demanded to practice. Our art scene became like loose, dangled dred locs from an unhealthy scalp. Her voice strewn like sidewalk abandoned Christmas trees. With the desperate opportunity for manhood to be demonstrated, she/we were overlooked. It was not 1961.

Now about this, She was given the mic and then cut short by loud music playing in the background to a host dancing behind her begging for a laugh and a few smiles. She wasn’t given the same time limit, as he. And She, was given time on the stage to express her newest and most intimate poetry piece. She was accepted by the audience with warm applause and finger snaps. Capsized with emotion, she stepped away to gather herself only to have the host scold the audience clapping for her by saying, “We don’t do that here”. And then She, was too serious and her voice was too loud. “You should write some love poems”, he declared to her after she received thunderous applause when all night he received scattered rain drops. And then She, was a performer amidst reading writers. And while both are styles of interpretation, it distinguished her natural flame to a fire and cast her away feeling lost and unheard.

And she/we were paid less. And she/we were heard less. And then one night we all talked. And we almost cried. And we all had the same story and we all reaffirmed it wasn’t 1961. And Rachel decided we should do our own. And we did. And we sold out a night club on Hollywood Blvd with an all female poetry feature show. The first of it’s kind during this wave of poetry in Los Angeles. And we ate. And then our four corners of the city saw what we were made of. That temblor thwarting technology that doesn’t fall during earthquakes. That strong wavering skyscraper that houses thousands of people working and living with stories to tell.

(part II tomorrow)

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some days i feel like, attallah shabazz

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the oldest child. the one who clearly remembers. I am the one who appears to have “kept it together”. the one sought for direction and clarity.

Attallah Shabazz is the daughter that can silence a crowd with her commanding beauty and strikingly visible resemblance to her father, Malcolm X. Attallah became the artist to this family that was thrown in the political arena. She is a lecturer, playwright, director, producer and performer. She mirrors her art to her father’s message to continue to elutriate ill perceptions. She has found her own voice to preach her own gospel of human rights and self-esteem.

In an interview, Attallah speaks of having coloring books and reading books that depicted persons from black history. She continued, “So when I went to school and parts of me were omitted from history books, I knew the hole wasn’t in me, it was in the books.” Some days I feel like Attallah Shabazz because even though I learned the hole wasn’t me later in life… when I did find out, my art began a path that had a natural commitment to preserving my community and its’ vernacular.