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SHE GIVES US STRENGTH - FOR COLORED GIRLS... CREATIVE TEAM INTERVIEW #9 (GARLIA JONES)

Ntozake Shange left behind a legacy, creating a collective language for many women of color with her work. To celebrate this revival and the all-women of color creative team of FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE/WHEN THE RAINBOW IS ENUF, we invited photographer CHRISTINE CHAMBERS to capture the creative team through the lens of her portrait photography. Outside the photography studio, we asked the team to reflect on what being on this production and part of an all-women of color creative team means today and for the future.
 
Ninth in this series of interviews is Garlia Jones.

What does the legacy of For Colored Girls… mean to you, and how has that impacted your work?

Generations of Black women have encountered Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf as either audience or as participant. Her words have become our mantras. Her poetry dances throughout our lives. Our reimagining at The Public is giving another generation exposure to a story that speaks to the souls of so many women. 

I was fortunate enough to meet Ntozake twice before she passed and, like so many, feel protective over her legacy. I consider that to be as a Black female dramatist who celebrated her Blackness within the form later called choreopoem. Our second and final brief interaction was a celebratory one — as she was receiving a Lifetime Achievement at the then newly created Lilly Awards, only in its 2nd year in 2011. 50 Black Female Playwrights surrounded her as a surprise as she accepted the honor.

Between that direct experience and my own interaction with her work, Ntozake’s legacy brings Black women and women of color together in a way I have never seen before. She gave us this text and we all continue to make it our own because it speaks our hearts.

What has your experience working on an all women of color creative team been like?

There are few opportunities for women, women of color and Black women to gather in this way and for this production; sisterhood is not a buzz word. The bonds between many of us in the cast and creative team are quite solid. That carried us through and I am so proud to have been amongst this team. I have also been able to share this with my children and specifically my daughter attended our special event with women of color and Black women during our final weeks. There have been tears and there has been joy and both have left me forever changed.

What is your biggest challenge as a line producer?

Balance is the name of the game and, personally, being a mother and sole provider, there is balance in doing my work well — being there for my entire creative team and then making space for myself to rejuvenate. When the work is so emotional and the days are long, the biggest challenge is truly making space for everyone, so that they are heard and seen as if your entire focus is only on them.

Who/what inspires you in your work?

This has been a hard year personally and a very fulfilling year professionally. I am inspired by those that have been doing the work of advocating for and creating space for Black artists. It has been vital to me that those stories are told and given the space to be told, and it is vital to me that more artistic leaders of color are given opportunities to rise. My artistic ancestors and those I had the privilege of knowing, like Amiri Baraka, are inspirations to me. Dr. Barbara Ann Teer was a woman I met early on in my time in New York, but now, to have called her National Black Theatre home for some time now, and to honor the lessons I receive through continued interaction with the community around me, a community that continues to hold space for Black artists and artists of color, is an inspiration. I am inspired by independent Black women and women of color, and all women for that matter, who continue to make themselves known through their work and their artistry while balancing motherhood, for example. I take in the world around me and cling to the good. There is always good that can come out of anything and that is where I lean.

What is your advice to women of color interested in pursuing a career similar to yours?

Ask questions and tell the truth. Be honest about where you are and where you want to go. I am still learning that one. I don’t always take no for an answer — I’m always willing to do the work, even if the results are not immediate. Finally: don’t be afraid to make your own space if you feel as if there isn’t one for you.