Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For Women's History Month: How to Keep Sheroes Prim and Proper


Rosa Parks being fingerprinted
courtesy Library of Congress
When New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote about a new biography of Rosa Parks, he opened his article with a warning:

“Most of what you think you know about Rosa Parks may well be wrong.”

In fact, Blow says later in the piece,”Parks, like many other Americans who over the years have angrily agitated for change in this country, had been sanitized and sugarcoated for easy consumption…The Rosa Parks in this book is as much Malcolm X as she is Martin Luther King, Jr.” (Ironically, that very sentence reduces King and Malcolm X to two-dimensional figures. But we won't quibble.)

But the so-called "Mother of the Modern Civil Rights Movement" was not just a woman who got “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” – in the words of her peer Fannie Lou Hamer. Activism ran through Parks’ blood.

Her grandfather followed Marcus Garvey, the controversial Black Nationalist who organized a back-to-Africa movement in the 1920s. She married Raymond Parks because he “refused to be intimidated by white people,” according to passage quoted in Blow’s column.

Frankly, some of the “new information” about Parks had been around for some time. The old story about being physically exhausted had long been debunked. Many biographers noted her time at the Highlander Folk School, a training ground for social justice activists that was established in 1932. 

So how did she get to be so meek and mild – at least in the public’s imagination?

Check out the title of this blog post.

Angry women scare us.  Competent, focused women do, too.  Parks was both. Just the notion of a woman enraged by injustice upsets the balance of power. So Rosa Parks isn’t called a “founder” of the modern civil rights movement; she’s called its mother. And the words used to describe her, "working quietly," "uncomfortable with the spotlight' suggest a modest woman unwillingly thrust into a leadership role.

That might be true, but modesty isn’t synonymous with passivity. Just ask Jarena Lee, Anne Hutchinson, or any women who stood up for what she believed. Even if, like Parks, she did while sitting down.

This blog explores issues raised by "If She Stood," a play by Ain Gordon and Nadine Patterson for the Place Philadelphia project. Please subscribe to receive posts in your email.
"If She Stood" will run for six performances:
  • Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 3 p.m.
  • Friday, May 3, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday May 5, 2013 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now - BUY HERE.

Friday, March 8, 2013

For Women's History Month: Women Speak


I'd love to hear women like Jarena Lee and the Grimke sisters speak for themselves. Of course, that's impossible: technology to record and replay sounds didn't emerge until the last years of the Grimkes' lives.

Still creativity has done what science couldn't. Numerous actresses, actors and even scholars have brought early abolitionists and feminists to life.

In honor of International Women's Day – and Women's History Month –  I'm posting links to podcasts from radiocurious.org.

 Independent audio producer Barry Vogel has established the site 23 years ago.
He's produced a large number of podcasts on feminism and women's issues. I'll start with Matilda Joslyn Gage, a suffragist from New York. Gage was born in Cicero, New York  in 1836.  She came into the abolitionist movement naturally; her father was an anti-slavery activist and their home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Like her "sisters" in Philadelphia, her activism led her to feminism. Although she didn't attend the first women's conference in Seneca Falls, she did go to the third convention in Syracuse. Eventually, she became a noted speaker and writer.

But she buttressed her words with actions. Starting in 1871, she repeatedly challenged the law by attempting to vote. She finally cast a ballot in 1880, when she brought a crowd of women to vote in a Fayetteville, New York.

Gage was a rebel in more ways than one. She renounced Christianity because she maintained it contributed to the oppression of women. 

Vogel recorded his 30-minute "interview" with Gage - played by historian Sally Roesch Wagner -  in 1996. You can hear it here, or download the podcast from the site.


This blog explores issues raised by "If She Stood," a play by Ain Gordon and Nadine Patterson for the Place Philadelphia project. Please subscribe to receive posts in your email.
"If She Stood" will run for six performances:
  • Friday, April 26, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, April 28, 2013 at 3 p.m.
  • Friday, May 3, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Saturday, May, 2013 at 8 p.m.
  • Sunday May 5, 2013 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are on sale now - BUY HERE.