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relationship between Black Americans and Black Europeans

Aomawa Shields





I am an African-American woman with an MFA in Theater from UCLA in Los Angeles, California, and a Bachelor's Degree from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I am also an actor and solo theater artist currently touring my solo shows nationally, which address issues of identity, gender and racial stereotypes, and the merging of science and art in my piece Goddess. Divided., which I performed at the National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 2001. My most recent piece, Necessary Precautions, which I was commissioned to create by Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, CA in 2003, looks at the events of September 11 as seen through the eyes of six different characters, including a violin. I was invited to perform this piece at the National Black Arts Festival last summer in Atlanta, GA, and performed it as part of the Martin Luther King Day celebrations in Exeter, New Hampshire this past January.

My work as a solo theater artist is focused on using art as social activism, and as a vehicle for social change. Its aim is always toward opening a dialogue; not to necessarily take the most liberal point of view in characterization and political slant, but to embody many diffferent points of view in a way that makes people on both sides of an issue question their reasoning, biases, and prejudices. How else can we find a meeting point where we can listen to each other?

I would like to present a piece at the BEST conference in November that looks at the relationship between Black Americans and Black Europeans in regards to how we see ourselves. Whether we are cruising down Crenshaw Blvd in South LA with the hood down and music blaring, or sipping a cafe au lait on the Place St. Michel with a cigarette between two fingers, we have an idea about ourselves - who we are, where we came from, what feel we are entitled to, and how obligated we feel toward those who have come before. How do Blacks on both continents view their families? Their ancestors? Their history? What still angers us? What small victories have we won? Where do we feel our self-esteem? In our belly? In our chest? What does that look like? What does it sound like to walk down the street as a black woman in Europe? Does it sound quiet? Angry? Defiant? Do we check to see if we are being followed in the drugstore too? What are our dreams? How similar are we? How different?

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