TURN IT UP: 'AMPLIFY' SERIES COMES TO POWERFUL CONCLUSION
Video above: Watch the final episode of 'Amplify,' Season 2, featuring Jada Suzanne Dixon, Kristina Fountaine, Ilasiea Gray, Mary Louise Lee, and Adrienne Martin-Fullwood.
'No more will I use your measuring stick for how I show up in this world. In fact, I'm breaking that measuring stick and walking my own path.'
By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist
Today, the Arvada Center launched the final episode of “Amplify,” its video series giving voice to Black men and women through music, performance, dance and spoken word. Season 2 has featured 15 Black women whose voices have not yet been heard loudly enough – at the Arvada Center or beyond. The series has been a proactive response to the racial reckoning in America that has arisen since the murders of George Floyd, Elijah McClain, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans. Betty Hart has curated "Amplify" into taped segments of about 25 minutes each. Watch the first five episodes here. Below, meet the five women featured in Episode 3.
AMPLIFY: JADA SUZANNE DIXON
'I was shaken to my core hearing George Floyd call out for his mother as his life was snuffed out.'
Honestly, I have struggled with words. A feeling I have been having off and on since the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and so many others. I've tried to find the right words – words big enough, detailed enough to encapsulate the myriad feelings and thoughts that have been running through my body and mind. Struggling to find words to try to make sense in my mind of events that make no sense. Trying to find words to express my concern and anxiety about safety for my husband and kids. I was shaken to my core hearing George Floyd call out for his mother as his life was snuffed out. It made me think of all the mothers who have lost, who have suffered, who have fought, who are weary – and yet continue to take one step forward. And another. And another. I wanted to somehow make sure that we did not forget, I did not forget, who has fought before us. Black women have always been a part of the struggle, but they have not always been seen, heard, recognized or celebrated. We have been told by so many to toe the line, to watch our tone, to behave this way or that, being defined by others based on their fear. We have been measured in the way we speak, behave, the clothes we choose to wear or not wear. The self-examination black women often go through to walk out their own door on a day-to-day basis is exhausting. With 'Amplify,' and in other ways, we are saying, “No more. No more will I use your measuring stick for how I show up in this world. In fact, I'm breaking that measuring stick and walking my own path, my own way, in all my glory and fabulousness.”
AMPLIFY: KRISTINA FOUNTAINE
'It can feel like we’re screaming into the wind.'
Out of the plethora of emotions we are feeling as Black people right now, I wanted to focus on the one that has been a real struggle for me: Anger. The speech Antony gives in "Julius Caesar" when he is alone with Caesar’s body after his murder clearly articulates the emotional journey I go through every time I read the name of yet another Black life taken from us. Antony expresses so beautifully the grief, the anger and the want for revenge we feel. Obviously, the want for revenge is not something that is constructive, nor is it something we act upon. But we do know that feeling very well. Instead of pushing those feelings down, I wanted to explore them fully and possibly release them using Shakespeare’s text. As a woman of color, it means everything to me to have Black women's voices amplified at this moment in time. We are constantly fighting the trope of the “Angry Black Woman”: A label that is easily slapped on us at the drop of a hat for simply speaking up. We speak and we’re not heard so the speaking becomes shouting, the shouting becomes screaming and it can feel like we’re screaming into the wind. We have so much to say. And we will be heard.
AMPLIFY: ILASIEA GRAY
'Black women are the most feared yet strongest voices in the world.'
I thought it was important to highlight some of the racially insensitive and minimizing experiences I have had as a Black actress and educator in this community while trying to do my job. I don't get the same courtesy of feelings spared in this industry, and that is not by coincidence. So it was only right to spare no feelings in my piece. This piece will force some people to be uncomfortable, to take a look at themselves in the mirror, as well as this theatre/on-camera community in Colorado as a whole. Oftentimes, Black women are silenced, not believed or made to feel like we are a "problem" when we speak up and advocate for ourselves. We are often praised for our incredible strength and endurance – which is REAL. Yet in the same breath, our pain and our experiences are often minimized and trivialized. Black women's voices are the most feared, yet strongest voices in the world.
AMPLIFY: MARY LOUISE LEE
'We are worthy to have seats at ANY table!''
Performing “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday has always been an emotional piece of work for me because it is a protest song about the lynchings of Black Americans in the south. I chose to do the song because of the social climate we all face today. This song is a message about the constant racial injustice throughout America.Throughout history, Black women have been the bottom of the barrel for everything. Disrespected, silenced, mistreated, shamed, looked over and humiliated ... and yet still able to protect, comfort, support, raise her family as well as others and, most of all, love! Black women of all shades are beautiful, resilient, powerful, intelligent, smart, creative and undeniably phenomenal. Black lives matter and so do the lives of BLACK WOMEN! Whether it’s the boardroom, political arena, newsroom, theater world (and the list goes on) … WE are worthy to have seats at ANY table!
AMPLIFY: ADRIENNE MARTIN-FULLWOOD
'My heart is heavy with the violence in our society.'
There are so many stories and experiences of the Black Woman that need to be heard, and the 'Amplify' series has provided a platform for us to express who we are as Black Women and as a culture. In my piece, I chose to address an issue in our culture that should be acknowledged and not to allow anyone else to ridicule who we are as a people. I felt my subject matter should be said and not swept under the rug. My heart is heavy with the violence in our society and specifically the violence of our people. So given a platform to voice my opinion can be a start in bringing awareness to what we already know to be in existence.
John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine during his time at The Denver Post. He also is the founder of The Denver Actors Fund, and is now contributing reports for the local theatre community for ArvadaCenter.Org. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The women of 'Amplify': Top row, from left: Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Colette Brown, Ilasiea Gray, Jada Roberts and Jasmine Jackson. Second row: Kristina Fountaine, Latifah Johnson, Lynne Hastings, Marisa Hebert and Mary Louise Lee. Third row: Michaela Murray, Sheryl McCallum, Simone St John, Stephanie Hancock and Therese Gardner.