African-American women celebrated in Daughters of Africa

History lessons can be a little dry at times, and as a consequence many of us struggle to absorb all those names and dates. Mixed Blood Theater actress Thomasina Petrus overhauled that boring-history paradigm on Feb. 15 with a one-woman celebration of African American women’s impacts on United States history.

“Daughters of Africa” traced the lives of several well-known women, including Rosa Parks, Oprah Winfrey and Harriet Tubman, as well as less talked-about figures. Petrus’s remarkable vocal talent shone as she took on characters like Lena Horne, Billie Holiday and Queen Latifah and gave each musician a unique, spot-on sound. The play was directed by Warren C. Bowles and written for the theater by award-winning playwright Syl Jones.

“Daughters of Africa” was co-sponsored by the Diversity Celebrations Committee and the Cultural Union for Black Expression CUBE as part of a series of Black History Month events. CUBE co-chair Lakresha Williams ’15 planned the performance to build on current discussions of race on the St. Olaf campus.

“We knew that a lot of Black History Month events would be racially focused,” she said, “so we thought that ‘Daughters of Africa’ would serve two purposes: to talk about race and to talk about gender.”

Williams enjoyed the performance for its entertainment value, too. “To have that one person do so many characters, you felt like you really got to know her,” she said. “I appreciated the performer as well as the performance.”

Mixed Blood Theater is a Minneapolis-based professional, multi-racial theater company. The group promotes cultural pluralism and social change with their productions, which are open to all income levels through a “radical hospitality” free admission policy. The theater was founded in 1976 and today produces a variety of culturally-specific shows that tour schools, libraries and other community centers in the region.

moes@stolaf.edu

wastveds@stolaf.edu

Photo Credit: SOLVEJG WASTVEDT/MANITOU MESSENGER

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