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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Finale Reading of "Anyone of Us"

We did it again, and it was simply fabulous! This time we performed the staged reading of Eve Ensler's "Anyone of Us: Voices from Prison" in The Black Box of the Relapse Theatre at 380 14th Street, N.W. in Atlanta, GA 30313. The day was sun-splashed perfection until the evening fell softly with the hypnotic melody of stormy rain. In this photo (graciously taken by Mr. Yemi Toure), cast members Nadirah and Brooklyn listen as I answer a question presented by the audience. I'd just finished dancing to Lydia's monologue of a woman leaving prison, her hands reaching out to gently touch the air surrounding her like a shawl, the leaves floating in circles of reds, browns and oranges.

Lydia, hand slightly raised, answers a question from the audience while Noel and Darci give a listen.

Nadirah shares her knowledge in her characteristic regal manner.

Our lovely Angelique Burke was absolutely amazing in her premier role as director. Her leadership reflected her professional expertise and the ability to engage our stunning and diverse cast in activities and exercises that brought us closer together and made us more aware of how the prison industry impacts our lives.

Oooops! (Didn't know how to delete pictures once I posted them here) A repeat picture and of course it would be of me talking, an activity that brings me great joy. I couldn't help sharing with the audience whenever I could, for I firmly believe that we are one. Truly, any one of the monologues could have been anyone of the women in our cast or audience.

Our knowledgeable and caring audience were invaluable to our performance. Without them, we would not have been. They listened tentatively, their faces revealing the temperatures of their internal horizons, and presented us with supportive commentary and provocative questions at our reading's end. When Angelique distributed slips of paper for their comments, one wrote: "The presentation puts you through so many emotions---rage, horror, disgust, anger, sorrow---that it's hard to think as to the problem and solution that cries out from every story told. That "no one is listening," that it could happen to you because it's the circumstance not the "bad" people that is principal. This is mayhem on a grand scale. We must put the whole system responsible for this in its grave!"
Others offered the names of social change organizations (i.e. and one lady spoke of various interventions her agency practiced.

Director Burke opened the floor to discussion and provided the cast with an opportunity to respond to audience questions. In addition, she distributed a resource sheet of organizations and their contact names and numbers to the audience.
Women's Prison Association
WPA is the nation's oldest service and advocacy organization committed to helping women with criminal justice histories see new possibilities for themselves and their families.
Critical Resistance
A national organization dedicated to opposing the expansion of the prison industrial complex.
INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence
A national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing.
Men Stopping Violence
Men Stopping Violence is a social change organization dedicated to ending men's violence against women.
Baitul Salaam Network, Inc.
Help eliminate the climate of fear and ignorance that makes family violence possible
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Anchor Hospital
Specializes in the treatment of behavioral health and addictive disease disorders for adults and adolescents in 24/7 confidential assessments, partial, and in and out patient services.
Coaching, Consultation and Counseling Services
Angelique L. Burke
One gentleman in the audience came up to the stage after the reading and gifted me with a copy of the newspaper, REVOLUTION. The March 8, 2009 issue heralded the subject "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation And The Emancipation of All Humanity." Its articles speak poignantly of the thickly weaved fabric of oppression of women and girls around the globe.
Nadirah and Brooklyn heed an impassioned remark.

Director Burke enjoys her role and the exchange of thought and passion.

The cast of "Anyone of Us" on stage after the reading.

Participating in this production was truly a blessed experience. I am thankful Angelique remembered me and called me to join her and the other young women in our cast to bring the forgotten plight of imprisoned women to the forefront of our consciousness. Now that some of our imprisoned sisters' stories are before us, let us rally behind them in the ways that we choose to keep the topic before as many people as possible. Let us dialogue with others to brainstorm what we can do, in our own little corners of the world, to make our society better, more peaceful for women and girls and all humanity.
Peace be onto you...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Staged Reading of Eve Ensler's "Anyone of Us: Voices from Prison"

It was my honor and pleasure to answer the Universe's call to my request. I'd placed it a few months earlier, from the chambers of my soul, when I thanked Spirit for allowing me to perform in movies and stage productions, amongst other creative endeavors. How was I to know Spirit would bring the manifestations to that request before the New Year was much older than a few months?
One sunny afternoon, I emailed my beautiful, creative friend, Angelique Burke, to tell her that I'd had the cherished opportunity to perform in an independent film, the event taking place from December '08 to January '09, before I took to the friendly skies to stand with 2 million others and welcome Barack Obama, our nation's first African-American President, into The White House.
To my delight, Angelique called, said she'd been thinking about me, wondered what I was doing, and presented me with the opportunity to join her in bringing to the stage Eve Ensler's theatrical reading of "Anyone of Us: Voices from Prison."
The experience has been awe-inspiring from its initial meeting, in which Angelique opened her home to four members of the cast and debriefed us on the undertaking, sharing her creative vision. She opened the floor for each of us to reveal why we were there. We shared a bit about ourselves and partook, all the while, in a hearty and delicious spread that kept my taste buds delirious with joy.
In Angelique's red-splashed home, I met beautiful, powerful women. Days later, I met others, who, in the above cast photo, have been my pleasure to have encountered. On the top row, they are (L-R) Lydia Cornellus, Director Angelique Burke, Jeanette Zakkee, Katina N. Grays, and Deepali Gokhale. I am Claudia Moss, the kneeling sistah on the end of the second row. The row continues with (L-R) Sonali Sadequee, Noel Richey, Ameena Ali and Nadirah Sabir. The lovely Hadayai Majeed, photographer extraordinaire and co-founder of Baitul Salaam Network, Inc., the host organization, snapped the photo.
Our premier performance was held in the Clayton County Library System's Headquarters Library located at 865 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro, GA.

"Anyone of Us: Voices from Prison" is a collaboration of Eve Ensler (actor/activist) and women incarcerated in various US prisons. The event, which will be performed again on Thursday, April 23, 2009, at 6:30 p.m., at the Relapse Theatre in Atlanta, GA, is a part of the annual International VDAY Celebration. Women cross racial, social, sexual orientation, economic, educational, and religious divides to hold hands in a circle of sisterhood to bond, uplift, raise awareness and funds to continue life-changing missions.
For truly, in the bat of an eye, in the turn of events, in a sleight of hand, it could have been anyone of us learning to have hope and faith living life behind prison bars.

What follows is a pictorial feast of our dance through rehearsals to the actual performance reading! Come...join us for our final performance at the Relapse Theatre on April 23...let your voice be heard in the brief discussion on the topic of "Women in Prison" and be we ALL always are!

Claudia and Katina cut up at her home during rehearsals.

Sonali ponders her next thought.

Katina and Lydia discuss their roles.

Katina heats up the rehearsal.

Claudia drapes Lydia and the director with love.

Angelique prepares to direct.

Sonali makes her point!

Claudia, we are not on stage!

Lydia looks into the future.

Director Burke brings her back...

Project organizers

Director Burke opens the floor for discussion.

Jeanette, Angelique and Deepali focus.

Sonali beams with satisfaction under the lights.

Noel delivered an awesome performance.

Lydia feels the power of live art!

Katina beams with joy after a stunning monologue!

Katina and Lydia smile for the camera.

On stage at the Headquarters Library

Director Burke feels the words from another soul.

Deepali is elated at the production's culmination.

And she has reason to be pleased, I'd say!

Deepali remembers through a woman's testimony.

Muchas gracias, mi Diosa, por mi vida magnifica!
My knee-baby sister, Glenda, "Miz Know It All," says, "Dance without the glasses next time, Sadie Mae." Don't you love your sisters, assigned and unassigned!
The photographs on this blog were graciously contributed by Hadayai Majeed, Ameena Ali, Nadirah Sabir, Anthony Daniels and Claudia Moss.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Scenes from the Heartland

My paternal grandparents' five-room mansion in Tuskegee, Alabama. Will and Sophia Moss reigned supreme in my adolescent memory here.
A side view of Grandma's house. Since she was the last to live in it, outside of my brother Delton when she passed, I think of the house as Grandma's.
A view up the road from the house, on the right, where Cousin Tot and Cousin Walter used to live. Their grown children have returned to the land now.
The sun was setting on my walk one day during Thanksgiving 08.
This is my gorgeous knee-baby sis Athera Everlener and her dashing hubby, Terrence, better known as T-Man. They reside in Florida.
My pretty baby sis Katarina, who was named after the Olympic skating star Katarina DeWitt, with her baby son, Man.
My son Avery, chillin' in my busy office
My niece and I post up on the steps of my Dad's new church in Little Texas, Alabama.
My knee-baby sis, Miz Glenda, regaling the camera in her home.
My twin brother, Claude, and my fabulous Aunt Marion, Mama's baby sister.
Sister Bernadette, "Chicken," and Unca Tang-Tang, Gladys' brother
My nephews with Calvin's children (Acy is on the right)
Members of the family pose for Christmas pics.
Down in Florida, I prepare to enjoy dinner and jazz with baby sis and hubby at Mango's, while Auntie Tawanna babysits their three sons.
Gorgeous Auntie Marion and her handsome man, Unca Herman.
My exciting sister Glenda and her friend, Steph!
Girls just wanna have fun, from the big to the little ones. That's my little cousin between me and Chicken, and of course my tiny niece, Mykaila.
The fam will pose in a heartbeat!
Chicken and Daddy
Mykaila and Man
I stand strong, like a tree in the sun.
I can still feel the good times when I drive up in the yard.

The house next door to Grandma's is the new homestead. Our cars fill the yard when we visit, and my dad and stepmom are elated to have everyone home.
Heading back down road
My oldest sis, Diane Louise, and her baby girl, Whitney, and her son Kenny and my nephews, Calvin and Acy.
My stepmom, Gladys, takes her daily stroll.
I have always loved trees.
I remember the old lady who used to live here. Her mailbox yet held vestiges of her mail no one had removed.
Deer hunters rumbling towards their venison.
There's my little Mykaila
A view from the left, up the road
I could walk this road forever. It reminds me of the road in Flannery O'Connor's story about Pheonix, the old Black woman hunting medicine for her grandson.
There are patches of water on the land.
Gladys gets her exercise now, even if she goes it alone.
My dad on his tractor, doing what he loves to do, as Unca Tang makes his way to the house.
Cousin Tot's boy's home
Family in the distance
The graveyard behind my deacon dad's church
Here we go again, grinning for posterity
Me gusta la tierra...

My brother-in-law, Rosevelt Stitts, graces Grandma's porch with me last Thanksgiving '08.
A fruit tree grows in my dad's front yard steps away from Sister Katarina's car.