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Sandra Bland remembered, honored at women’s artistic showcase

By Tariqah Shakir-Muhammad -Final Call Newspaper- | Last updated: Jun 19, 2019 - 8:48:31 AM

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CHICAGO—Black Lives, Black Words in partnership with Goodman Theatre and Artistic Directors of the Future hosted the “I AM … Festival: A Celebration of Women in Color in Arts, Activism and Leadership,” featuring artistic and educational programming at Goodman Theatre in Chicago.


The festival, held April 27-29, included an International Ten-Minute Play Showcase that included performance of “The Interrogation of Sandra Bland”—featuring 100 women of color performing the transcript of Sandra Bland’s arrest. The 28-year-old Black woman was found hanging in a Texas jail cell three days after an explosive altercation with a White Texas State Trooper in July 2015 and ended in her arrest. Family and supporters dispute her death being ruled a suicide.

The festival also included film screenings, workshops and readings by artists such as international television, radio host and multidisciplinary artist Nikki Patin; Algerian American journalist and filmmaker Assia Bendaoui; award-winning American filmmaker Shola Lynch and many more.

Co-founder, executive director and creative director of Black Lives, Black Words, Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, told The Final Call the strength of Ms. Bland’s character and her legacy was the theme of the festival and it gave an opportunity for artists to spend time with one another through their craft and creative expressions in art.

Free workshops and documentary film screenings from women of color filmmakers and performances of historic plays from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and contemporary ones were also part of the festival, said organizers.

“We thought it was important that it shouldn’t only comprise of new ones (plays), but it should actually pay homage to and celebrate those that have gone before us. We can get really engaged with our history in a way that’s really important for us to kind of see enough about our theatrical history,” said Ms. Hodge-Dallaway.


Reginald Edmund, co-founder of Black Lives, Black Words, serves as the groups managing curating producer. Mr. Edmund was elated that so much support from around the world was shown for the project.

“I think it’s beautiful seeing how people have been responding to this event, asking when we’re going to do another one, talking to us how deeply touched and moved they were by this event and how it had an impact on them as women of color and men of color being able to witness this event. It’s been really incredible, just seeing how people’s lives have been touched by this project,” he said.

Ms. Hodge-Dallaway said she was touched by the viewers’ and participants’ encouragement.

The project and performances offer a sense of community, healing and an opportunity for people to speak on matters and experiences that could open wounds for some, she explained.

“You get healing from sharing, understanding that you’re not alone in something. I think that for us, it’s more than just a play. For us, it’s about the understanding that community spirit and energy and community togetherness actually brings about the healing that we need.”

The next step for Black Lives, Black Words is to build the company and brand, said Mr. Edmund.

“We’re working towards building stages in our own space, developing a theatre center somewhere in Hyde Park, Chicago hopefully. We’re also looking at gaining supporters and investors in our project so that we can do the work that is necessary to create change through the arts. And we’re hoping to make a shift in terms of the way—not just Chicago— but the nation and the world thinks about the relationship between art and activism.”

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