Tag Archives: Black Lavender Experience

2018 Year-In-Review. What I Wrote. What I Learned. What’s Next.

20 Dec

Rashon Nelson, Donte Peterson
Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson

At the end of each year, I look back at my writings here to remember, and reflect on what was going on in the world around me in regards to race, about what I’ve learned, and hopefully, how I’ve grown.

I started off 2018 by writing The Crack Cocaine Center Of Excellence about my anger over the discrepancy on how the opioid “crisis” is being treated now that it is impacting white suburban communities vs. how Black people were treated who were impacted by what was called the “crack epidemic” in the 1980’s.

On February 14th, we learned Valentines Day will now forever be overshadowed by the occurrence of the Parkland, Florida school shooting. In Let Us Listen To All Of Our Young People’s Cries For Help To End Gun Violence. I wrote about how proud I was of the Parkland students for rising up and becoming passionate activists working to end gun violence. Yet, as they garnered the nation’s and the world’s attention, and praise, I, and others, who also praised the Parkland students, wished the same attention was given to the young Black and Brown students in Baltimore, Ferguson, and throughout the country, who have been activists for much longer. They have been activists out of the need to speak on behalf of their communities who have experienced gun violence, and police brutality, and killings by police officers, but have not gotten the same mainstream attention as the highlighted, mostly white, suburban Florida students.

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The 10th Annual Black Lavender Experience At Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre

11 May

The Pink Dress cast and crew

Travis Alabanza Black Lavender Experience

Travis Alabanza, The Black Lavender Experience

In April I went to two performances at Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre. The shows were part of the theater’s 10th annual Black Lavender Experience, a series of plays, folkthoughts (post-performance talks), and workshops, led by nationally and internationally recognized artists of color from the LGBTQ community. The Department of Africana Studies’ Rites and Reason Theatre is a research and developmental theatre dedicated to giving expression to the diverse cultures and traditions of continental and diasporic Africans and the vast Africana experience. Artistic Director of Rites and Reason Theatre, Elmo Terry-Morgan created the Black Lavender Experience in the spring semester of 1998 in response to students’ request for plays with Black LGBTQ+ content.

The Pink Dress

The first play I attended, The Pink Dress, was written and originally performed by members of the drama club at  Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women’s (LCIW).   The Black Lavender production was performed by local actresses, who were either students currently involved with, or alumni of, Brown University’s Rites and Reason Theatre. The actresses were Anna Hunt, April Brown, Elyssa Perez, Sylvia Ann Soares, Weitong Zhang, and Uchechukwu Onwunaka. Rites and Reason Director-in-Residence, Connie Crawford, directed this production. The play’s title refers to a pink sheath that prison staff used as punishment for women prisoners who presented themselves in a “too masculine way” by altering their state issued uniform: an oversize T-shirt, baggy jeans, and sneakers. The thought was that to wear the sheer, shapeless dress through which your undergarments could be seen,would shame and humiliate the women.

The play, a series of vignettes, celebrated the features and parts of  a woman’s body through word and movement, and was originally directed and choreographed by Ausettua Amor Amankum and Kathy Randels, co-directors of the Drama Club at the LCIW. Odes to their hips, hands, and feet, were akin to a poetic dance celebrating both womanhood and sisterhood. The play’s latter act took place in a dress shop named, “Pinky’s Boutique,” and highlighted the self-doubt a gender non-conforming ex-prisoner faced when looking for work at the shop post prison-release. Actresses posing as mannequins wearing paper doll cut-out tabbed pink dresses, came alive to first, mock, and then empathize with the woman. Is was as if they too, seemed constricted by their roles as mannequins being told what to wear, and how to perform their roles. After facing discrimination for her manner of dress from a co-worker, the woman finds acceptance with the shop’s owner, who focuses on the woman’s strengths instead of her attire preferences and prison record. With the recognition of her humanity, we see the woman’s belief in self begin to grow.

We learned during the folkthought talk, that the vignettes were inspired by […]