Three-Day Line-Up Announced for Black Lives, Black Words 'I AM...FEST'

Three-Day Line-Up Announced for Black Lives, Black Words 'I AM...FEST'

Black Lives, Black Words International Project, in partnership with Goodman Theatre and Artistic Directors of the Future, is proud to announce the festival line-up for "I AM...FEST: A Celebration of Women of Color in Arts, Activism and Leadership." Curated by Black Lives, Black Words Co-founders Reginald Edmund and Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, "I AM...FEST" is a first-of-its-kind international festival that shines a spotlights on female voices across the globe through three days of innovative and inspiring events. "I AM...FEST: A Celebration of Women of Color in Arts, Activism and Leadership" takes place at Goodman Theatre (170 North Dearborn), April 27 - 29. Admission for many events are FREE (first come, first served reservations required); reservations and tickets ($10 - 25) for the 10-minute play showcase on Monday, April 29, which includes The Interrogation of Sandra Bland can be purchased at

"It felt fitting that this year's program celebrated women of color that are artists, activists and leaders in a bold and historic way, proactively opening the door for the discussion revolving around the arts about equity through our programming" said Reginald Edmund, Black Lives Black Words International Project Co-Founder and Managing Curating Producer. "Every program in this festival is entirely led by, produced by, directed and written and facilitated by women of color. Our hope is to encourage art organizations large and small across the globe to provide more artistic and decision-making opportunities to women of color both onstage and off-stage."

"It has been a joy to shape and design the festival and program some of the most talented women of color artists, leaders and activists to take part in this international celebration of voices, minds and experiences. I hope that this festival will continue to inspire as many people who encounter it and ignite a new approach to art, activism as well as increase the personal libraries and awareness of the richness of talent that exists within our community both locally and internationally," said Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway, Co-Founder of Black Lives Black Words International Project and Executive Director and Creative Producer. "I am honored to be directing 100 Women of Color on the Goodman's stage for the U.S. premiere of The Interrogation of Sandra Bland. At a time where we desperately need solidarity, healing and hope, this closing performance will not only pay homage to Sandra Bland and the many female victims of police brutality, but will showcase the strength that we possess when we come together to stand up to social and political injustice."

Goodman Theatre Artistic Director Robert Falls added "We are proud to host I AM... Fest, a fantastically ambitious event that will serve activists and artists alike as it culminates in an Owen Theatre performance that highlights Black artistry, locally and globally. Reginald Edmund and Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway's work as leaders of Black Lives, Black Words has produced what I think will be a momentous occasion for Chicago's theater community and the city at large."

*all events take place at Goodman Theatre (170 N. Dearborn); unless otherwise noted


Film Screening | The Feeling of Being Watched
3 - 5pm

In the Arab-American suburban Chicago neighborhood where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Boundaoui uncovers FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest pre-9/11 counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S.--code-named "Operation Vulgar Betrayal." With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker's examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Assia Boundaoui is an Algerian-American journalist and filmmaker based in Chicago who has reported for the BBC, NPR, PRI, Al Jazeera, VICE and CNN. Her debut short film about hijabi hair salons for the HBO Lenny documentary series premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Her feature length debut, The Feeling of Being Watched, had its world premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.

Workshop | Making the Artivist
3 - 4:15pm

Hosted by Red Clay Dance Company, Making the Artivist trains community-minded participants in the practice of "Artivism," which helps participants discover, develop and use their artistic voice to become a change agent in their community. Through movement and storytelling, participants begin to understand their identity, agency and power within societal frameworks and systems. Red Clay Dance Company lives to awaken "glocal" change through creating, performing and teaching dances of the African Diaspora-change that transforms cultural and socio-economic inequities in the local and global community.

Workshop | Surviving the Mic: Brave Space Making
4:30 - 6:30pm

What began as a 10-week workshop series for spoken word artists who identified as black, female and survivors of sexual violence, "Surviving the Mic" evolved into a groundbreaking survivor-led open mic and workshop series, led by Nikki Patin. Brave Space Making highlights the differences between holding safe space and brave space, "Surviving the Mic" community agreements, the impact of the series on the 2018 National Poetry Slam, and a discussion about how to center survivors and their work. Featured in The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, HBO's Def Poetry Jam and on international television and radio, multidisciplinary artist Nikki Patin has been writing, performing and educating for almost 15 years. She has performed at EXPO Chicago, the National Black Theater in Harlem, Brooklyn Museum, Black Artists Retreat, Arie Crown Theater, UIC Pavilion and many other spaces throughout the U.S., New Zealand and Australia.

Reading | Trouble in Mind by Alice Childress (United States), directed by Lili-Anne Brown
7 - 9pm | VIP reception to follow

Broadway, 1957. An integrated theater company gathers to rehearse a new play-the one they hope will be the next big hit on the Great White Way. Against the backdrop of misperceptions and stereotypes within the company, veteran actress Wiletta Mayer grapples with the choice between an once-in-a-lifetime chance to play the lead role in a Broadway show, and the cost of compromising her principles. Trouble in Mind is a groundbreaking backstage story of egos and attitudes, and an insightful look at who we are and who we want to be. American novelist/playwright/actress Alice Childress (1916-1994) described her work as "attempt(ing) to interpret the 'ordinary' because they are not ordinary. Each human is uniquely different. Like snowflakes, the human pattern is never cast twice. We are uncommonly and marvelously intricate in thought and action, our problems are most complex and, too often, silently borne." Childress formed an off-Broadway union for actors, and her paper archive is at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY.


Film Screening | Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed
12:30 - 2pm

In 1972, Shirley Chisholm, a brilliant black congresswoman from Brooklyn, became the first woman to boldly bid for the presidency--and demand that the body politic represent all Americans. Shola Lynch is an award-winning American filmmaker best known for the feature documentary, Free Angela & All Political Prisoners and the Peabody Award winning documentary, Chisholm '72: Unbought and Unbossed.

Workshop | Playwriting as Activism
Led by Mojisola Adebayo
11am - 12 Noon

Led by UK-based Playwright Mojisola Adebayo, who transcribed Sandra Bland's arrest to create The Interrogation of Sandra Bland which will premiere during the closing of the "I AM...FEST," her bespoke workshop, inspired by her expertise in Augusto Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, will provide participants with a tangible insight into how best to use their voice and writing talent to create activist-driven artistic work. Adebayo is one of the UK's most prolific activist playwright and will share her experience of the impact that her work has had on her personal life, career and audiences across the world.

Panel Discussion | Women Leaders of Color
12:30 - 2pm

Some of the most inspiring Black Female Artistic Leaders within the Chicago Art Community gather to share their journey, experiences, challenges and successes. This panel discussion will provide audiences with an insight into leadership as well as, provide tips and advice on how best to reach goals and achieve a sustainable trajectory in the arts industry.

Reading | So What's New? by Fatima Dike (South Africa), directed by Andrea Dymond
3 - 5pm | Panel discussion to follow

So What's New? is a domestic South African comedy about four township women who work in and outside of the legal system. While revolution brews outside, the women watch soap operas, and their private lives acting as an increasingly powerful counterpoint to the forces of darkness at work beyond their garden wall.

Reading | Chiaroscuro by Jackie Kay (United Kingdom), directed by Kemati Porter
7 - 9pm | Panel discussion to follow

'If you're white, you're alright, if you're brown stick around, if you're black stay back'. Beth and Opal are a couple, and Aisha and Yomi are very close friends. Aisha hosts a dinner--and as more wine gets poured, discussions get heated. The definition of "chiaroscuro" is "the treatment of light and shade in a drawing or painting." Centering on four women of color (mixed race, Asian decent and black), Chiaroscuro explores issues around shadism, loss of the mother tongue and homosexuality within the black community.


Black Lives Black Words International Project- 10-minute Play Showcase and The Interrogation of Sandra Bland

- Jezelle the Gazelle by Dominique Morrisseau, directed by Patrese McClain
- Yet to Be by Nambi E. Kelley, directed by Chika Ike
- #SuiteReality by TS Hawkins, directed by Nicole Michelle Haskins
- Revolt.Ing by Lisa Langford, Directed by Sydney Chatman
- Principles of Cartography by Winsome Pinnock, Directed by Veronda Carey
- His Life Matters by Yolanda Mercy, Directed by Melanie Thompson
- I Am Woman by Loy Webb, Directed by Am'Ber Montgomery

In addition to the 10-minute play showcase, the festival will conclude with the U.S. premiere of The Interrogation of Sandra Bland, by Mojisola Adebayo, directed by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway.

"The Interrogation of Sandra Bland, performed by 100 women of color, is a righteous uprising and a solemn requiem; both testimony and witnessing, theatre art and activism, a memorial imagined through the Black Lives Matter movement," said Playwright Mojisola Adebayo. "All 100 women speak the words of Sandra Bland, together, recalling the arrest that lead to her death in police custody. In this moment she is an 'everyblackwoman'. We elevate her status and all those who have faced such racist atrocities, through the amplification of the voice, a magnification of the struggle."

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