Talitha V. Anyabwele’s Black Girl Speaks, makes its area premiere, launching the 2012-13 national tour, at a most appropriate venue, North Minneapolis’ Capri Theater. After all, where better to honor African American women with this celebrated production than the heart of the Black Twin Cities.
Author-director-performer-producer Anyabwele states this theatrical experience is, “a series of monologues and spoken word pieces threaded together to chronicle the lives of Black women throughout the Diaspora.
“Everything…from our relationships with our mothers, daughters and sisters and lovers and husbands to experiences with our careers to molestation, [the show has] very deep topics in our community we typically shy away from. And at the end I always applaud the Black woman for triumphing, the fact that we are standing as strong and beautiful as we are today.”
It was first staged in 2005 and, standing on spontaneity as a significant part of its strength, has never in its history as an international vehicle been done exactly the same way twice, letting the work thrive as art that continually evolves. This, of course, is natural to the craft of creating. The 90-minute evening offers a half-dozen characters depicting stories of liberation, success, sisterhood, and love with those four concerns as the underlying theme each time out.
Black Girl Speaks, Anyabwele is careful to make clear, along with being the title, is an artistic movement spurred by BGS Productions, Inc. (www.black girlspeaks.com) to “empower the disenfranchised, uplift the downtrodden, and heal the broken-spirited through artistic expression. Through performances, lectures, workshops, and conferences we work to fulfill this mission.”
Working with her husband, Javonte, who hails from North Minneapolis, Talitha has committed investment to an initiative that “empowers, humanizes, and gives countless, voiceless women of [the] past and present to be vocalized.”
Gearing up to take her show back on the road, Talitha V. Anyabwele (TVA) spoke with the MSR by telephone.
MSR: What prompted you to create Black Girl Speaks?
TVA: Initially, I thought it would be a one-time occurrence. I had been touring with the Black On Black Rhyme poetry collective. The founder Keith Rogers [established] it in Tallahassee as a way to combat issues that plague the [African American] community, one of them being Black-on-Black crime. So, it’s a play on words.
The company is a whole collection of poets, spoken word artists and dancers, artists in various forms. I had been touring with that collective. Performing [my works], which my then boyfriend, now husband, encouraged me to put together in one show. My stage name at the time was Black Girl — still is. So, it just came to me, “Black Girl Speaks.”
So, I did the solo show, thinking it would be only one time. But, the response was overwhelming. And I realized I wasn’t doing it just for me. That I definitely had to continue. Because it really was touching and impacting more lives than my own.
MSR: It’s what you meant to do all along, but, somehow, you’re surprised that you accomplished it.
TVA: Right. Absolutely. At the time, I was a teacher. I had become a teacher because I quit corporate America abruptly. I knew that’s what I wasn’t supposed to do. I wasn’t very clear [on] what I was supposed to do, but I knew what I was not supposed to do.
So, I quit corporate America, had become an educator, loved it, still very passionate about [it]. I still work very closely within education. [And encourage] my students in the classroom to express themselves and, instead of violence, use their words and the pen and paper. It was also a way for me to be an example to show this is how you can rid yourself of [negative] feelings without being harmful to yourself or anyone else.
MSR: Often Black shows are done downtown, in front of mostly White audiences. Black Girl Speaks is at the Capri, right in the middle of the Black community. Was that by design?
TVA: Yes, it was. My husband is, as he says, proudly from the North Side.
MSR: He was your advance scout so far as a location that would connect to the public, right in the community’s backyard.
TVA: Absolutely. We came in July for a family function and a friend of my husband mentioned the Capri. We weren’t aware it had been renovated and restored as beautifully as it has been. But, once we researched it and saw, we knew it was the perfect place.
These are the people we want to reach. This is who Black Girl Speaks was written for. We knew we wanted it where the community was.
TVA: The second stop is going to be my native city, which is Atlanta, in January. I’m excited that the first two stops on the tour are our hometowns. We’re reinvesting in the places that have invested so much in us.
Talitha V. Anyabwele’s Black Girl Speaks premieres at Capri Theater, 2027 West Broadway, Minneapolis, on October 20, at 7 pm. Tickets are available in advance for $25 at www.blackgirl speaks.com or at the door on the day of the show for $30.
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