‘Since ’76’ touches the modern black woman

The curious, yet anxious audience filled the theater. Everyone came to find out what happened ‘Since ’76’. They soon found out not much has changed.

‘Since ’76’, written by the Rev. Shirlene Holmes, picks up where Ntozake Shange’s “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf” left off. Performed as a choreopoem, ‘Since ’76’ tells the story of the black woman in the new millennium.

Each poem, performed by women representing colors such as amethyst, topaz and indigo, takes the audience through a journey that fills the soul with laughter, anger, heartache and pain.

“I started work on a sort of… what happened ‘Since ’76’ when she (Ntozake Shange) wrote it,” Holmes said. “What issues are there, still there, new ones and I started to explore it in a choreopoem like she had written to just get us thinking again. So it was inspired by, initially, my love for and respect of Ntozake Shange and the play For Colored Girls.”

Holmes saw “For Colored Girls” when she was 19 and said it had profoundly affected her “as a young woman coming of age.”

“There are a lot of issues facing us (black women) and, in order to survive, we need to unite instead of be adversaries,” Holmes said.

Holmes is an asscoiate professor  in the department of communication  at Georgia State.

The choreopoem addresses teen pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases. and other issues. It also tells the story of the angry black woman who was not born, but “created.” Student Chelsea Williams played the character called Bone, and performed the poem “Bitch Piece.” It was one of the more popular pieces with a very enthusiastic reaction from the audience.

Samea Meriweather, 20, a third-year math education student from West Palm Beach,  said the play related to her on a personal level.

“The show was very inspirational and realistic,” Meriweather said. “It showed how black women go through everyday life and the trials and tribulations that they deal with: wanting to be loved, wanting to be wanted by men, their family, their peers… anybody.”

Gilbriana Adkins, 20, a third -year biology student from Lakeland,   agreed, and said the play exposed a great deal of culturally relevant issues.

“It hit a lot of major points with like society back then and now,” Adkins said. “It should hit home with a lot of the black girls in there. It was just wonderful and the cast was really good.”

Holmes uses ‘Since ’76’ to uplift men and women, but also uses it to discuss some of the playful and serious issues.

“I want the audience, male, female, young, old where ever to get in where they fit in,” Holmes said. “To just think about how black women are perceived and how they’re perceiving themselves. Some of that is funny; some of that is not funny at all. “

Holmes said her choreopoem is meant to send a very important message that she hopes is heard and understood.

“I want it to be thought-provoking… so someone will not just walk past black women thinking they’re ordinary,” Holmes said. “They’re extraordinary. So I wanted to bring up some of the deep issues. Pearl Cleage, the wonderful playwright, said ‘The theater is the one place that a black woman can speak uninterrupted.’ I think, I believe, matter of fact I know that’s what happened tonight.”