What They Say
On behalf of the Peace Corps, I want to thank you and the other cast members of In Her Words for celebrating National African American History Month with us…We were all greatly impressed by your play and its insights into the lives and social influence of the remarkable Black women depicted in In Her Words. -Aaron Williams, Director of the United States Peace Corps
As manager of the Capitol View Neighborhood Library, I write to thank you and your production company, Liberated Muse Arts, for the presentation of “In Her Words” … On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = poor; 2 = average; 3 = satisfactory; 4 = excellent; 5 = outstanding), 94% rated the presentation a “5″ …The statements of customers clearly revealed their appreciation of the production. In one word, they frequently described the performance as “great,” ”exceptional,” “inspirational,” “excellent,” and ”beautiful.” Several attendees connected the informative content with the significance of the women and their times, pointing out that your format presented a remarkable “history lesson.”- Paul Mills, DC Public Library System
“Thank you!! The performance was so beautiful, so professional…and inspiring…
You are a wonderful cast of true artists.”- Pam Neal, audience member
Imagine growing up during a time when lynching wasn’t illegal– and neither was segregation for that matter– and McCarthyism was rampant. Now, imagine creating– amidst that environment– art that transcended race, bled through inequality and uplifted a nation. In this musical theatrical presentation, we meet five transformative African-American creatives who rose above the binds of racial injustice and fed the souls of millions with their art and their message.
In 2011, playwright Khadijah Ali-Coleman was driving home one night listening to Pacifica radio station WPFW where they were playing an old interview from 1966 with the late Lena Horne with Gene DeAlessi.
“I was floored,” Ali-Coleman says. “Lena Horne, talking about race, ‘the man’ and her father, a number’s runner was so counter this image we’ve always been shown of this beautiful and poised woman. Here I was listening to Lena Horne being political, being conscious. It literally made me perk up.”
Ali-Coleman, who studied African-American Studies and Mass Media at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a student of such luminaries in the field such as Acklyn Lynch and Miriam De Costa-Willis, hungrily went home to research more about Lena Horne and her role in the civil rights movement and was transfixed by learning that Lena Horne was not only the first Black woman to sign to a major movie studio, demanding to never be commissioned to play a maid, but was someone blacklisted during McCarthyism because of her outspoken beliefs and association with the late great Paul Robeson.
Ali-Coleman went on to research the interviews and footage of other great entertainers/writers who inspired her– Nina Simone, Zora Neale Hurston, Billie Holiday, and Lucille Clifton– and decided to do something to honor these women and to highlight, not just their art, but their voices as politically and socially conscious citizens as Black women artists. Living in politically dangerous times when lynching was commonplace, discrimination rampant and Jim Crow still the law of the land, all of these women challenged the status quo in some way, leaving their art as their triumph.
About the Project
“In Her Words” is a theatrical presentation produced by Liberated Muse productions and directed by Khadijah Ali-Coleman showcasing the voices and views of Lucille Clifton, Zora Neale Hurston, Lena Horne, Nina Simone and Billie Holiday. Their monologues have been inspired or taken from their own words spoken in interviews and concerts found here.
Poems recited by the character Lucille Clifton are all original poems by poet Lucille Clifton.
“Stormy Weather” by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler
“To Be Young Gifted and Black” music by Nina Simone with lyrics by Weldon Irvine
“Feelin’ Good” by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse
“Now” by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jule Styne
“Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol
Closing song “In My Song” by Khadijah Ali-Coleman