“Ain’t I a Woman” provokes thoughtful dialogue
On Thursday March 22, the Assumption College community hosted actress Shayla Simmons and The Core Ensemble, for their performance of “Ain’t I A Woman.” In this play, Ms. Simmons portrayed Zora Neale Hurston, Sojourner Truth, Clementine Hunter and Fannie Lou Hamer: four robust African American women, who throughout their lives served as influential icons to women, musicians and the nation as a whole.
As professor Carl Keyes introduced Ms. Simmons, he explained to the audience the importance of understanding that women history is our history and black history is American history. At that moment, I watched as two women of color who were sitting towards the front of the auditorium shot their hands up in snaps, endorsing professor Keyes’ statement.
Throughout the show, I took note of Ms. Simmons as she put on an invigorating performance for the audience, pouring heart and soul into each character she portrayed. Doing her best to make sure that she gave an accurate representation of each woman and their life.
At the end of the show I and a few other executive board members of the ALANA Network, gathered together to take a picture with performers, and we discussed how Ms. Simmons’ execution of each character was amazing, and also discussed the importance of celebrating women of color in leadership roles and how it is integral part of the fabric that makes this country complete. Ms. Simmons prodigious’ performance affirmed my belief that little girls and young women need to see more women of color portrayed in a more positive lens in media, performing arts and all aspects of the professional world, and not simply as domestic laborers.
Recently, a story about a two year-old girl named Parker Curry, who visited the National Portrait Gallery, in Washington DC, with her mom made headlines, when a photo of Parker staring astounded at a portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama went viral. Parker’s mom said in a statement, “She was just so focused on the portrait and studying it, and she was just so fascinated”.
The fact that little Parker Curry, who is just two years old, was captivated by the portrait of Michelle Obama, goes to show that girls are watching from a very young age what it means to be adored and idolized. They are learning, very early on in life their capabilities and potential to being successful.
One can assume that at that moment, Parker Curry experienced what may have been an eye opening moment; In that moment, she learned that a woman, who looks similar to her, whose hair is similar to hers, whose skin is toned just like hers, is important enough to have a portrait of herself up in a National Museum.
It’s moments like these that we as a society should strive to make happen more often. To inspire little girls that they have the capability of making meaningful contributions to society, that go far beyond housework and child rearing; and more importantly, to help them understand that they are not limited to success because of their gender or their race.
Feldano Francois, a sophomore, studies criminology and sociology. He is a staff writer for Le Provocateur.