As I started In Search of Our Warrior Mothers - Women Dramatists of the Black Arts Movement I knew that I was entering a territory that I know very little about, and one that I am in intent on learning more about. As well-read as I may be there are some serious deep holes in my literary and artistic knowledge, which is why I am on a quest to read as diverse as possible on an ongoing basis. Not as a challenge but in general. At times (often) this leads me into a place of discomfort, and a lot of self-questioning, which is great. We never stop learning, it’s important to feel uncomfortable and grow as a human being, for ourselves and others.
While reading In Search of Our Warrior Mothers I was acutely aware that I literally know nothing about really being submitted to continuous oppression. I can pretend to understand how it feels to be oppressed from my own place in this world, and from talking to others, and reading, and watching, but I have the huge privilege of not being able to understand how it feels to carry the weight of oppression through generations. I wanted to read In Search of Our Warrior Mothers because I was interested in learning more about women artists and activists in the Black Arts Movement, and hadn’t heard much of the four women (Barbara Ann Teer, Martie Evans-Charles, Sonia Sanchez, and J.e. Franklin) studied in the book before. But I feel like I learnt so much more, and the book ignited a necessity to not only discover more of these artists’ work, but also to go further into not only the Black Arts Movement in general, but into the work of black women that continues to be erased. I am so incredibly thankful to have been given the opportunity to read this book.
In Search of Our Warrior Mothers, written by La Donna Forsgren, is a brilliant thesis on the dramatic and theatrical works of Barbara Ann Teer, Martie Evans-Charles, Sonia Sanchez, and J.e. Franklin, four black female artists and activists in the Black Arts Movement. In Search of Our Warrior Mothers provides great insight into how black female playwrights within the movement created unique plays that centered on the realities of life as a black woman in the US after centuries of oppression, and the unique struggles that only a black woman can claim to understand, within society as a whole, and also at a community level. While none of the four artists claim to be feminist per se, their collective work creates a narrative of empowerment of the black woman, provides representations of the everyday life as a black woman in the US but also of warrior mothers, and is a call for liberation from destructive ideologies and myths, all the while inspiring unity within the black community. This is however just a short summary in general, La Donna Forsgren goes so much deeper than that in her work.
In Search of Our Warrior Mothers is such an important piece of work as it is an in-depth research into the plays of women who were so talented, inspirational, and an integral part in not only the Black Arts Movement, but in art and culture in general in their communities and in the country. But, more importantly, as the creations of these women have often been erased, or shoved into obscurity, overlooked by historians, critics and feminist scholars for the most part, In Search of Our Warrior Mothers shines a much needed light on their outstanding work in theater and beyond. As La Donna Forsgren states in her epilogue, In Search of Our Warrior Mothers is just the beginning of what will hopefully lead to many more scholars delving into the works of so many black female artists, and bringing them to our attention instead of letting them fall foul of erasure. I have highlighted every woman cited in In Search of Our Warrior Mothers and will make it my mission to seek out their work this year.
In Search of Our Warrior Mothers - Women Dramatists of the Black Arts will be published by Northwestern University Press on April 15th, 2018. Thanks so much to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy!