This is a woman’s trip! – a trip about the black woman’s ascent from headrag to headwrap and from the “big house” to the White House. Using the genres of poetry, spoken word, song, dance, and music, an Our Voices Are Many cast of over 60 local dramatic readers, poets, spoken-word artists, musicians, dancers, and singers will celebrate the voices and images of black women in America from African queens to black women of prominence.
Mamie Webb Hixon, the show’s originator/creator and its Writer/Producer/Artistic Director, says she’s no Shonda Rimes, but she has written and compiled a script that captures the essence of black women and honors them as DAUGHTERS OF AFRICA. The two-hour show is divided into three parts: Part I – DEAR MOTHER AFRICA – creates and re-creates the black woman’s experience in America in an epistolary format; Part II – TOUCHED BY A BLACK WOMAN – explores the black woman’s multiple identities from her word and words to her work and works; and the Finale – “WE SPEAK YOUR NAMES” – offers black men the opportunity to give voice and praise to the black woman’s beauty and accomplishments.
The entire program is dedicated to mothers – all mothers – since it is performed on MOTHER’S DAY at 4:00 p.m. at Pensacola State College’s (PSC’s) Jean & Paul Amos Performance Studio, which is part of the WSRE complex. Tickets for the Sunday, May 10 performance are $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for students; admission is free for PSC students. Tickets are on sale now in PSC’s Ashmore Fine Arts Building (Building 8).
Doors open at 2:30 p.m. for the 4:00 p.m. show. Vendors will be available in the WOMEN’S SHOWCASE from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m. From 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., audience members will be able to watch a Mother’s Day “I’ll Always Love My Momma” Slideshow that features photos of local mothers.
The Our Voices Are Many: Daughters of Africa program is being sponsored by PSC’s Black History/Multicultural Committee. Dr. Gael Frazer, Associate Vice President of Institutional Diversity, said, “We are excited about bringing the Our Voices cast back to PSC for another sell-out event.”
The performers and other participants include but are not limited to Musical Director Al Martin; the MJJ Praise Dancers; dancers/choreographers Eleanor Johnson, Gail Johnson, Nielah Spears, and Ferne Guillebeaux; ballerinas Carlyn James and Megan Carthen-Jackson; singers Saundra Daggs, Vivian Lamont, Judy Cook, Jessica Owens-McMillan, Aja Abanathy, James Gregory Griffin, and others; and poet Alicia Waters and spoken-word artist Danielle Buffong. The program will be narrated by Sue Straughn and Mamie Webb Hixon along with the seven members of the Griot Chorus (Delaine Wright, Demeturis Hale, Donna Freeman, Jackie Parker, Jo Mayo, Robin Reshard, and Linda “Sonshine” Moorer). The seven-woman ensemble, like an African storyteller (Griot) and a Greek chorus, will provide commentary, dramatic readings, and singing to enhance the program.
Sons of Africa dramatic readers will be featured as well: Haazim Abdullah, Ron Cole, Ralph Goodman, Sam Bolden, Gabriel Brown, Sidney Pugh, and Ray Bell.
The program includes the poetry of Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni, Pearl Cleage, Ntozake Shange, Langston Hughes, and other renowned poets. Also among the performances are Negro spirituals, and songs from the jazz of artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday, to the rhythm and blues of Etta James and Jill Scott. Participating groups include Dance Konnection, a group which will provide a dance tribute to mothers, and NNOA (National Naval Officers Association), a group which will provide a tribute to women in military service.
Each year since the show’s inception eighteen years ago, Hixon has introduced a new element, a new feature to Our Voices Are Many. In 2013, she created the Griot Chorus, an ensemble of seven women who offer sideline interpretations, singing, and poetic and prosaic commentary about the theme and the theatrical performance itself in the manner of a classical Greek Chorus (combined with the West African term for “storyteller” –Griot). In 2014, it was the Sons of Africa Chorus directed by local musician Cheryl Watson. This year, the audience will be introduced to two new features: the Daughters of Africa Chorus, also directed by local musician Cheryl Watson, and the “Extras.” “Extras” (non-cast members) will be black women whose faces will be spotlighted in the upcoming Women’s History issue of Out Front Magazine in an article titled “Black Beauties: ‘Their Black Is Beautiful,’” an article written by Hixon herself. The article, Hixon says, like “The Daughters of Africa,” addresses black identity as it relates to the expected standards of beauty in America by spotlighting local women who represent what Hixon calls the various subdivisions, or shades, of black beauty.
Mamie Webb Hixon calls herself a “Connector”: “I among the people Malcolm Gladwell describes in his book The Tipping Point as those who have an uncanny knack for bringing people, events, and ideas together and making connections.” Using Our Voices Are Many as her principal medium, Hixon says she connects the local community to the UWF literature courses she teaches, one being Black Women Writers (a course she designed at UWF), by “staging” the course’s content. At Our Voices Are Many performances, I acquire a local community of “students” and “teach” them African-American literature with history on the side. “In this way, I am creating my own brand of UWF student recruitment,” Hixon laughingly says.
“The Daughters of Africa” is not a play. It’s a scripted and themed, multi-media, theatrical presentation of African-American history and literature using videos, slide presentation, photos, voices, and music to portray, in this instance, the images of black women in America.
“It’s history; it’s literature; it’s information; it’s entertainment – it’s ‘info-tainment,’” Hixon exclaims.
For more details, contact one of the following persons:
Mamie Webb Hixon
Dr. Gael Frazer