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“Black Women Walking”
Written by Karen F. Williams
Directed by Kevvin Taylor
Produced by seek first entertainment
Runtime: 80 minutes
During Black History Month in February of 2013, Arizona State University’s Project Humanities and Seek First Entertainment brought playwright Karen F. Williams’s drama Black Women Walking to high schools and colleges throughout Arizona. Funded in part by the Arizona Humanities Council, “Black Women Walking” is a one-act play which highlights the extraordinary achievements of eleven of the greatest female leaders in African American history. From the living room of three friends, playgoers venture back in time to meet such historical figures as Sojourner Truth, Marian Anderson, Wilma Rudolph and other Black heroines of history and witness the courage, character, and brilliance of these women that impacted the American landscape with their powerful journeys towards freedom, justice, and equality.
In a moment when many in the U.S. believe that we have reached a post-racial chapter in America's history book of stresses black/white race relations simply because we have a black/biracial President, we can daily pull from the headlines narratives that show we have a long way to go before we reach a point where "all men are created equal." Karen F. Williams's short play Black Women Walking introduces black women into this equation, making it abundantly clear that black women have always been integral to America's history even when they were absent from history lessons and history books. “Black Women Walking” also features lesser-known historical figures such as Mary McLeod Bethune, Zora Neale Hurston and Willie Mae Ford Smith – women who didn’t necessarily make it into the history books, but much like their better-known counterparts, were God-fearing women who triumphed over great obstacles through their perseverance and spirituality. “Black Women Walking” is seen through the eyes of three elderly women. By coming together and sharing the stories of these great women of history, they too become liberated and empowered. They stand tall, move with faith, and step out with courage, despite the limitations and frailties of their age.
According to the Director, Kevvin Taylor, “Black Women Walking” educates, entertains and encourages. It is a spiritual-based play with universal themes about the importance of education, civil rights, liberation, justice and equality. It is a classic tale of finding strength in the struggle, appropriate for all ages, and has a message for everyone. Young girls are empowered with a sense of womanhood, self-confidence and pride. Males see beyond the images of women portrayed in the hip-hop culture and media, leading to healthier, respect-based attitudes and behavior. Layered with soul-stirring songs, interpretive dance and dramatic multi-media imagery; “Black Women Walking” is an opportunity for parents to share a positive learning experience with their children, and educators can use it as a tool for teaching important lessons of history, diversity and social interaction. Each performance is followed by a short discussion of the play’s themes and messages involving the cast, audience and director.
Building awareness, understanding, and appreciation are essential principles in humanities. Therefore, history and culture are primary humanities disciplines in this project. Beyond being able to read and write, being a literate citizen means being aware of one's own frailties and understanding what we can learn from those who do not live with us, think like us, look like us, speak the same language we speak, or live near us. Thus, the workshop materials provided to students for this project explain the historical, political, and social issues of the time that led to limited rights of certain people such as minorities and women and the battles fought to gain equal rights for all. The workshops also ask students to discuss what equality means and why equality is such an important right. Likewise, students have the opportunity to analyze how they would feel if placed in situations where they were a slave whose family was sold away or forced to stand up for themselves like Rose Parks did when she refused to give up her seat. These types of scenarios and discussions combined with the audience discussion after the production provide understanding and appreciation for the struggles endured by the 11 women portrayed in Black Women Walking. Such a production is especially important since schools are showing more sensitivity to multicultural diversity and are always looking at exciting ways to engage and educate their students in meaningful ways.
Karen F. Williams is a writer, an editor, and an author with a diversified career in journalism and publishing. She is the author of Lights, Drama, Worship! (a collection of dramatic presentations for the church). Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English (Journalism concentration) from North Carolina A&T State University, a Master of Arts Degree in Communication (Creative Writing concentration) from CBN (Regent) University, a Master of Theological Studies from Vanderbilt Divinity School, and a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Arts and Theology from Wesley Theological Seminary. She has received several book publishing certificates from the Graham School of General Studies, The University of Chicago. Williams presently works in Christian publishing as a children’s curriculum editor.
Kevvin Taylor is an owner and creative director ofseek first entertainment, a faith-friendly family entertainment company providing theatrical productions, event management, and presentation services. A graduate of the Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film at Arizona State University, he developed and coordinates the Performing Arts Ministry at Tanner Chapel A.M.E. Church in Phoenix, Arizona and directs and produces several annual productions throughout the States. Taylor is the recipient of the Phoenix College Living Legend Award and Arizona State University Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film Theatre Award.