I now identify myself as a visionary — someone with imagination and foresight, with a capacity for holding love for self and others in the landscape of feuding intersectionalities.
I don’t think visionaries are born. Visionaries become. Some people see things, or hear things, and know things, but do not act upon them. They denounce the calling to be visionary — not because they lack courage, but because there is a stronger societal admonishment, pushback, and push out for doing so. There is a deep dismissal and mistrust that there will be an unseen that provides sails, safety nets, or wings when it is time to leap empty-handed into the void. Miscarried visions die like hard raisins in a box of stale cereal.
Historically, Black women have had to be visionaries. Harriet Tubman. Sojourner Truth. Zora Neale Hurston. Fannie Lou Hammer. Octavia Butler. Alice Walker. Angela Davis. Maxine Waters. Nina Simone. Oprah Winfrey. Michelle Obama. Alicia Garza. Patrisse Cullors. Opal Tometi. Nekima Levy Armstrong. Angela Conley. Andrea Jenkins. Ilhan Omar.
There are many more unnamed women. Black women have had to envision a world beyond the meager living sanctioned by the Black experience; by the political constructs of racism, sexism, classism, and ableism; by the coopting of our bodies and voices; by the redlining of communities in which we live.
When I wrote, produced and acted in my first play, “Angry Black Woman and Well Intentioned White Girl,” I needed a safe platform to release a string of feels and unsaids about being too often wrongly accused of who I was or what I actually felt. I had been reduced to a stereotype or a token.
The play was sold out for its two performances in 2016.
I wanted the play to be like the Vagina Monologues. I wanted it to travel to other communities. I wanted it to roll in and gather women — white, Black, Native, other people of color — into this conversation. I wanted women to figure out how to build capacity and strategies for becoming allies. I feel an urgency for women to show up and show off. There is so much work to be done. There is unfinished business around our needs as well as the needs of our children, families, and communities.
In 2017, there was a public reading of the play at The Water Bar and Public Studio in Northeast Minneapolis. I was nervous. Since the play’s debut, Trump had secured the White House. Yet the 2017 post-play conversation with 75 women exceeded my expectations and offered new insights.
A woman who had heard about the play, who lived in Sandstone, Minnesota, emailed me. She asked me to bring the play to her city. It had not occurred to me to travel to rural cities, to towns where people of color were less than one percent of the population. The woman and I communicated for months before we ever met. This white woman galvanized friends, activists, art communities, ministers, and funding for the play to travel to St. Cloud, Duluth, Cambridge, Sandstone, and Cloquet.
All of this was not how I envisioned my work to evolve. I am humbled and thrilled. I will continue to use my artistry to speak truth to power and to incite real conversations that lead women (and men) into actions that liberate us all.