Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marian Anderson and Willie Mae Ford Smith are just five of the many historical characters in Seek First Entertainment’s “Black Women Walking.”
This 90-minute, one-act play returns to the West Valley on Saturday, March 30, at Estrella Mountain Community College. This is the first year the play has branched out west and the second time it will perform in Avondale. The previous one was March 1.
Director Kevvin Taylor said, “People can expect to get a glimpse of American history. I think sometimes we separate women’s history, African American history and Latino history. For me, it’s about what you bring to the experience, and I hope they get a better understanding of our country and the women that made history.”
The play is about African-American women in history as they tell their life stories, Taylor said. With the help of dancing, gospel music and multimedia elements, the audience travels through history and learns more about the well-known figures as well as those who seemingly have been forgotten.
The play originally began in a church basement in Phoenix with three actresses portraying the 11 characters. Now, the play has been running for 12 consecutive years, has won “The Best of Fest” award at the Atlanta Black Theater Festival, and has grown to 16 actresses, four chorus members and three professional dancers. As the play grew, Taylor said, the elements that tell the story developed as well.
Seek First Entertainment has partnered with Maricopa Community Colleges and is excited to be working with Estrella Mountain, Taylor said. Since it is a partnership, both sides get benefits and it is more developed, Taylor said.
Tim Butterfield, manager of EMCC’s performing arts center and an adjunct faculty member, said the play “was really important, because with the makeup of our student body it’s tough to do plays that are all black, all latino, all women. This play brings in important aspects to our students and the community.”
Butterfield added, “Seek First creates a relationship that is mutually beneficial, a symbiotic relationship that works very well for us.” He said this play allows students to get experience in the production elements of a play. A portion of proceeds go toward future student productions and student scholarships.
Although EMCC students can attend for free, Taylor invites everyone to come to the show in order to learn more about history and to start dialogue.
“I really believe it is a show that is a must-see for the entire family. I think there’s no better way for people to appreciate history than through entertainment. It is a way to keep the civil dialogue of humanity’s effort toward equality.”
Butterfield said, “A play like ‘Black Women Walking,’ which we are doing about Women’s History Month, not only tells the story of women in society, but minority women in society. These women are often forgotten in the textbooks and it’s important for all cultures, not just black culture. It’s important for people to know and understand what happened in history.”
Taylor said women can hopefully get the idea to think larger and bolder, such as these women did in society, and men can get an idea of the struggles women went through and better understand the problems they face today.
Overall, Taylor wishes for “a better understanding of humanity (and) finding your own strength and your own struggles, whatever that may be for you.”