This Saturday, March 29th, the Maiden Voyage Theatre Ensemble will celebrate SWAN Day with a choral reading of Beah Richards’ famous poem, A Black Woman Speaks at 3:00 pm at the St Adalbert/Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish, 2347 East 83rd Street, Cleveland, Ohio.
The poem caused a sensation when Beah Richards first read it in 1951 at a Chicago peace conference. It was inspired by the trial of Willie McGee, an African-American from Laurel, Mississippi who was sentenced to death in 1945 for allegedly raping a white housewife. Although many notable people spoke out on his behalf, he was executed in 1951.
In Richards’ poem, she asks white women to consider their own lack of power and their complicity in the perpetuation of the racism that resulted in the death of McGee and many other black men. You can see Richards performing excerpts of the poem and hear her describe the first reading in the video below.
The Maiden Voyage reading will feature a cast of talented women, who will perform the poem with a richly-nuanced reading that involves music and movement. Some of the artists are Jane Skinner, Norma Powell, Delores Morrison-Ballard, Charles Harris, Dianne Harris, Gwendolyn Coats, JoAnn Cook, Cjm Love TheBoss, Irma R McQueen, Sandra Gay, Yvonne Oliver, Taba Aleem, April Griffin Curtain, Nyrie Stallworth, Georgia E. Stewart, Iris D. Tucker-Berry, Netanya Lane, Daphne Michelle Huston Robinson, Kacie Ray, Kala James and Teresa Gilbert. Sharron McPherson-Foxx is the Artistic Director. Sherrie Tolliver, cultural history interpreter and actress, who has portrayed several renowned women in her career, is their Artist-in-Residence.
Admission to the event is free, but the Ensemble asks for donations in order to support future programming and productions.
The Maiden Voyage Ensemble, a company of women from the Cleveland Area, is a collaborative group of women in theater and performing arts dedicated to celebrating women’s creativity. Their mission is to engage, inspire and entertain audiences, while raising awareness of women’s issues, and providing opportunities of creative expression for women of color while bringing the fine arts to the under-served communities of Cleveland. For more information, please visit their Facebook page.