“Sistas On Fire” Newsical Answers the Question “Why Are Black Women So Mad?” (Review)

By: Miya Jones
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"Sistas On Fire" Newsical Answers the Question "Why Are Black Women So Mad?" (Review)

In a small intimate theater in the East Village, a crowd came out to view society through the lens of a Black woman. No assumptions were made and stereotypes were not tolerated as the three-woman cast of “Sistas on Fire” directly explained why are Black women so mad.

Topics such as female genital mutilation, hypocrisy, racial ambiguity and relationships, or as the cast called them “relationsh*ts,” were just a few of the reasons why.

The piece started with hilarious on-point commentary from President Donald Trump delivered by Shanelle Sharp, who also played woman three.

Then, slideshows shown in between scenes displayed images of influential Black women and protestors of the past and present who have helped pave the way for future generations. Call and response was also encouraged. This classic African tradition was present, especially during a dance break to James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud.” Throughout the show, there were celebratory moments like this, hilarious moments like the Trump monologue and there were also moments of somber reflection and frustration.

The newsical brought a good balance of positive and negative emotions that were authentic to the Black female experience. “Relationsh*ts” was one subject that the cast really nailed.

The question how did I get to be your enemy was repeatedly asked. This was a question posed to Black men due to the amount of intra-communal violence and disrespect Black women experience. The women gave an informative explanation of how this divide between Black men and women started during slavery. Men were emasculated and women were raped by white men, which strained the relationship between African-Americans to this day. Black men and women still try to get ahead by clinging to whiteness because during slavery the closer you were to it, the more likely you were to survive and have a better quality of life.

You see the effects of our treatment back then to this today. It’s shown when football players like Jahleel Addaw toast to more light-skinned babies and when there is a lack of outrage from Black men when Trump insults Black women like journalist April Ryan.

Racial ambiguity, which is when someone is unable to tell a person’s race just by looking at them, was another subject covered. Saap played the role of someone who was being targeted for being racially ambiguous and she did not have to pretend. She said she’s often asked what she is in terms of race by strangers.

“Why are we so obsessed about where people come from?” asked Saap during a Q&A with the audience.

The scene demonstrated how yet another frustrating division exists among African-Americans when we separate and bully each other for not being or looking Black enough.

"Sistas On Fire" Newsical Answers the Question "Why Are Black Women So Mad?" (Review)

One touchy subject discussed that left the audience in uncomfortable silence was female genital mutilation. This is commonly done in central and northern Africa, the southern Sahara and parts of the Middle East and Asia. United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that over 80% of women ages 15 to 49 in Sudan, Mali, Egypt and Somalia, which are places where our African sisters mainly reside, have had their priavate areas cut or mutilated.

This under covered travesty is enough to boil anybody’s blood, and the cast covered the issue unapologetically. Despite this production of the play being an abridged version, they were able to fit in a multitude of topics to drive home the point that Black women are mad for very real reasons.

“I love how mad is repeated over and over again,” said Michele Quintero, who played woman two. “It’s so unfair that when a woman has something to say, people say, ‘She’s being emotional,’ or ‘She’s on her period,’ and I’m just like no I have a voice too. I have something to say!”

“It [the play] spoke to me because it gave you a voice to say I am mad about this and I’m not gonna take it anymore,” agreed Vickie Carson-Clemons who played woman one.

All these topics along with the fetishization of Black beauty, the hypocrisy of funding private prisons over schools and being dubbed the, “The Angry Black woman” cause Black women to reach their boiling point. “Sistas on Fire” conveyed these stresses through poetry, singing, dancing and rapping. They also showed how universal the Black female experience is despite differences in age.

This informative newsical is a cathartic release for the Black women and it received a great response from the diverse crowd on opening night. One woman claimed she saw the play three times in one night and learned something new each time.

"Sistas On Fire" Newsical Answers the Question "Why Are Black Women So Mad?" (Review)

The play, written by Long Island’s own Marcia McNair and Anissa Moore, was partially inspired by Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls,” another play and movie that shows society from the perspective of Black women.

The production, which has been in the making for three months, was directed by award-winning filmmaker Marquis Smalls. Juson Willams, who is an award-winning choreographer and composer, provided original music and created the dances. The show was produced by thespian and filmmaker Kwamara Denise Thompson and vocalist and producer LaQuin J.B. served as the stage manager.

The cast was limited in terms production due to the small space, but the cast made the best out of it and are working to improve with each show. The ultimate goal for the cast and crew is to present the newsical on a larger scale, nationally and internationally, to make sure the untold stories of Black women are put in the limelight.

“Sistas on Fire” will be showing at The East Village Theater until March 17.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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