Actors head west in domestic violence drama

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Florida A&M Essential Theatre prepares to perform its first production of the school year, Pearl Cleage’s “Flyin’ West” on Oct. 24th. The play touches on an issue that over 30 percent of college students have in common domestic violence.

“Flyin’ West” presents four strong-minded black women who leave the South to head west in search of freedom, peace and land offered to them by the Homestead Act. Equipped with guns and filled with pride, once they arrived in Kansas, they realized things were not so sweet. They faced racism, greed and betrayal head on.

“This is a very relevant piece, even though it’s historical in nature,” said Valencia Matthews, program director and the assistant dean of the College of Arts.

According to Sandra Stith, director of the marriage and family therapy program at Kansas State, about 30 percent of college students have been in relationships that involve physical aggression.

Hamilton, who plays Frank Charles, the abuser in the play, said the play teaches that people do not always have a clear meaning of love.

“I’m putting my backbone into it,” said James Hamilton, 25, a senior theater student from Belle Glade. “A lot of girls come on campus and the first guy that tells them they love them, they fall for it.”

Hamilton said he could identify with his character, Charles, because the character is a fair-skinned black man who could pass for white. and Hamilton is biracial. He said he knows first-hand about racism. Hamilton said for some people he is not “black enough” and for others he is not “white enough.”

Matthews said the play is universal because people can identify with the emotions exhibited such as betrayal, love and hate.

“The play teaches us about ourselves, our history and makes us want to learn more and do better,” Matthews said.

As well as appealing to the emotions of people, some people say black people can learn a lot from the story.

Hamilton said students could learn some investing tips from the play. He said a lot of black people do not invest in land.

“They’ll drive an Escalade, but pull up to an apartment…the people in the play invested in land,” Hamilton said.

According to Stith, men are also the victims of abuse, but violence against women cannot be minimized.

“We need to send a clear message that abuse in any form is not normal, not acceptable and not okay,” Stith said.

The play will be held Oct. 24 to Oct. 28. The play is free for FAMU students, $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for all other students.

Performances will begin at 8 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday at Charles Winter Wood Theatre on FAMU’s campus.

For more information on “Flyin’ West” visit or contact Valencia Matthews at (850) 599-3430. And, for more information about domestic violence visit