TURN IT UP: 'AMPLIFY' RETURNS, BRINGING VOICE TO BLACK WOMEN
Video above: Watch the debut of 'Amplify,' Season 2, featuring Colette Brown, Jasmine Jackson, Latifah Johnson, Marisa Hebert and Stephanie Hancock. The next episode drops on August 28.
'What impacts Black men also impacts Black women, Black children and the legacy we leave.'
By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist
Today, the Arvada Center launched the first episode of its second season of “Amplify,” its video series giving voice to Black men and women through music, performance, dance and spoken word. Season 2 features 15 Black women whose voices have not yet been heard loudly enough – at the Arvada Center or beyond.
The "Amplify" video series is 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. All across the nation, individuals and organizations that may have counted themselves among those allied with the principles of equality and social justice suddenly found themselves taking long looks in the mirror.
"Amplify" debuted on June 26, specifically to give local Black men the opportunity to be heard through song, performance, dance and spoken word. Soon after, series producer and True West Award-winning actor Betty Hart announced that "Amplify" would return in mid-August with a second season featuring all Black women.
"Because of the response from the people, the Arvada Center now has the great privilege of amplifying more Black voices," Hart said. "From the moment this series came out, people have been asking us, 'What about the women?' Because of how the audience has received this work, we have decided to continue, this time focusing on Black women."
Hart has curated "Amplify" into taped segments of about 25 minutes each. Watch the first four episodes here. The next episode will drop on August 28 and September 11.
AMPLIFY: COLETTE BROWN
'Black women have spoken boldly even when they weren't heard.'
I performed “Today I Cried” as my "Amplify" piece. I was inspired by this very real and raw piece because it was written shortly after the George Floyd murder by the daughter of a very close friend. She has two young sons who are going to have to find their way in this world as Black males. I hear and see the same pain, frustration and anger that I experienced when my sons were young, and still now as they are men. Not much has changed.
Black women have spoken boldly even when they weren't heard, and they have acted boldly even when they weren't acknowledged. They have been witness to the pain and suffering of Black men, women and children in this country for centuries. And now, at this point and time, when such complete disregard for the dignity of Black lives is so blatantly exposed, the voices of Black women must be amplified so that we can be a force for change.
AMPLIFY: JASMINE JACKSON
'Black women are an irreplaceable part of the conversation.'
I read this article recently in *The Washington Post* about the “Wall of Moms” in Portland guarding protestors. Though it focused on the attention this particular civil response received versus an earlier South Side Chicago organization of Black moms, “Mothers Against Senseless Killings”; more broadly it addressed how Black women have been treated in social-justice movements throughout the history of our country. And it got me thinking about Black suffragists, Black civil-rights organizers, the Me Too movement founder, the Black Lives Matter founders, etc. Black women who were pivotal, and are pivotal, in monumental shifts in our society. People who were ignored or overlooked or undervalued, biding their time.
Having one’s voice perpetually unheard can be one of the most debilitating things. I can’t stress enough the importance of those historic civil movements – and others – and the current one. But shedding a bright light, amplifying Black women's voices, shouldn’t be thought of as a detraction from the “main” agenda any longer; it’s an irreplaceable part of the conversation. Regardless if it’s tired, angry, despairing, frustrated, or joyful, voice is powerful. I’m still learning that for myself.
AMPLIFY: LATIFAH JOHNSON
'Black women are tired of making sure everyone else is OK.'
The monologue I selected is from “Day of Absence,” written in the mid 1960s. I am inspired because its message is still very relevant. In the past few months, we have heard much about “essential workers.” Black people, and other people of color, have always been essential workers, performing jobs others considered them best suited for. Many of the women in my family were essential workers at one time or another. However, they were never praised for their hard work, nobody placed signs on their yards saying “Thank You.” What if all these workers just vanished one day?
Black women’s voices must be amplified, because we are tired of making sure everyone else is OK. What impacts Black men also impacts Black women, Black children and the legacy we leave. When we speak it is OK to allow ourselves to be the ”Angry Black Woman,” because we need to help shift the consciousness of this planet for the betterment of future generations. Our voices are amplified because we have passion and love.
AMPLIFY: MARISA HEBERT
'Maybe this gets to be our time.'
There is a grotesquely stunning history of Police Officers killing Black and Brown men and women in this country. As disgusting as that history is, it has become almost as normalized as school shootings. This spring has felt different. This spring, it has felt non-stop. Add on to that the incidents with Christian Cooper in Central Park, and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, and I have just been livid. The kind of livid that makes my stomach turn, and I can't seem to stop crying. I feel like I'm always in some state of grief these days. I LOVE/ED being outside, and as a Brown Lady, I notice that most of the time when I'm outside, I'm enjoying the outdoors mostly with white people. After Christian Cooper and Ahmaud Arbery, I'm having anxiety while running in the mornings, I'm anxious when I walk my dogs in the afternoons and have stopped my weekend hiking altogether. I don't feel safe doing normal outside things surrounded by white people. I feel more "othered" when I'm outside being active than any other public place right now. I had to get that off my chest.
Black women have been historically overlooked when it comes to our activism, and our contributions to this country's shared history. The fact that I'm writing this on the same day that Kamala Harris is now the first woman of color to be on a major-party presidential ticket means that maybe we are about to get our due. That maybe this gets to be our time. Our voices, our thoughts, our stories, our lives that finally, FINALLY get to come out of the shadows and live in the sun.
AMPLIFY: STEPHANIE HANCOCK
'When you open your heart, love prevails'.
I wrote “The La La Song” to be reflective of The Spirit and of Life. I wrote it as a reminder that through pain and sorrow, when you open your heart, LOVE prevails. I am so honored to have been chosen to be part of this story.
It's important to have Black women's voices amplified now and going forward to be voices of reason, truth and love. It's through deep, abiding love that we counterbalance the voices of division and hate.
The upcoming "Amplify" lineup includes Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Ilasiea Gray, Jada Roberts, Kristina Fountaine, Lynne Hastings, Mary Louise Lee, Michaela Murray, Sheryl McCallum, Simone St John and Therese Gardner.
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.