Clarissa E. Love and daughter Shawn Love-Bradley recently gave a riveting visual art and poetry performance titled, “I Have a Voice!”
The departments of black studies and women’s and gender studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha sponsored the performance enjoyed by UNO students, staff and community members.
Clarissa is an artist, author, community activist and recent UNO graduate. Her daughter, who grew up in Omaha and now lives in New York City, is an actress, playwright, poet, author and a graduate of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta.
Clarissa and Shawn introduced some African-American women from history in a most interesting way. Clarissa had painted beautiful portraits of these women. She introduced them to the audience one by one by telling of their accomplishments. After each woman was announced, Shawn read the poems she had written that captured how the accomplished women might have been feeling.
Many of these women were the first recorded African-American women to make extraordinary achievements in their fields of endeavor.
Seventeen women were selected to highlight, including: Bessie Coleman, born in 1892, the first African-American female pilot; Dr. Rebecca Crumpler, born in 1831, the first African-American woman to become a physician in the United States; Susan King Taylor, born into slavery in 1848 and the first black Army nurse; and Ida B. Wells, an investigative journalist, educator and one of the founders of the NAACP.
Some of the women highlighted in the 20th century were Dorothy Williams, the first black woman who graduated from Omaha University (now UNO); Dr. Mae Jemison, NASA astronaut, the first African-American woman to travel in space; and Shirley Chisholm, first African-American woman elected to the Congress.
The more contemporary women highlighted were Michelle Obama, Cathy Hughes, Oprah Winfrey, Aretha Franklin and Venus and Serena Williams.
Clarissa said, “When I began drawing, my daughter, who is an accomplished poet, began to discuss collaborating artwork and poems. Black studies classes and art history at UNO provided me with an avenue to discover the many wonderful accomplishments made by black Americans.”
Clarissa performed the first “I Have a Voice” programs for senior housing residents. Many of the seniors could relate and knew family members of the people presented. The seniors were encouraging and thought the program should be continued.
Clarissa and Shawn have written an “I Have a Voice” book soon to be released about 27 black women overcoming barriers to become high achievers. The book is to be used as a traveling American black history, art and poetry program. They plan to take their performance all over the country.
Clarissa Love can be reached at 402-594-8924 for those interested in having “I Have a Voice” presented to their group.
Shawn said, “Our mission is to create a positive forum for discussion of ‘I Have a Voice,’ but also motivate critical thinking for people of all ages and to whet their appetite for knowledge of the history of African-Americans. We would like a venue for our black children to build self-esteem and motivation to tap their creative selves through all aspects of the arts, visual poetry, literal research, dance and music.”
Mother and daughter, through their searches and studies of the history of African-Americans, have developed a deep need to share their knowledge with others. They realize that there is a lot of truth in the saying, “Knowledge is power.”