Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Black Girls (Can) Fly! It was written and directed by Sydney Chatman. I was about a young girl named Bessie Mae (Nana Gyang-Akoto) who is staying with her grandmother (Kona N. Burks) for the summer and is dealing with her anxiety about violence. Her grandma has started this club called the Fly Girls, which is a group of young girls (Christina Ames, Grace Ames, Dana Blanchard, Briohna Booker, and Samaya Sigle) who are inspired by black women aviators and scientists, such as Bessie Coleman and Mae Jemison. They are going to put on a show about the women they are inspired by. Bessie Mae was skeptical at first and thought it might be lame for her to join, but then she sees the importance of all these women in her dreams. I think this is a really educational, talent-filled, and fun show.
I loved everyone's energy in the opening. All the Fly Girls seemed to be having a great time. That is what you want to see in a show with kids, that everybody is enjoying themselves. They had these light up shoes and glow-in-the-dark bracelets, and they had a dance routine in the dark that made use of those elements. They shared these poetic speeches about the situation Bessie Mae was in, anxious about the Fourth of July fireworks and actual gunshots in her grandmother's neighborhood. They are introducing you to the ideas and the characters in the show, but they are not just exposition. You get to see their personalities and their bond with each other.
The relationship between the grandma and Bessie Mae felt very real. They seem to be sort of estranged at the beginning, but you see Bessie Mae being won over by her grandma's ideas about how everyone should know about these women who were underappreciated because of their race and sex. The grandma also wants her granddaughter to hang out with other girls rather than just moping around. I think that, after her grandmother convinces her, they have a more functional relationship, and I would have liked to have seen more of it. The grandma believes in participating in her community and Bessie Mae learns that it can actually be rewarding. There is a scene where the grandma is showing Bessie Mae the Fly Girls' show. They have all these picture frames with pictures of their idols who defied the laws of gravity and defied the laws of the patriarchy. And they give you a little of a backstory on them, which I think was really interesting. It made it so you could have the knowledge that the grandma wanted the world to have. It made you feel like you were participating in the Fly Girls' community.
People who would like this show are people who like learning about underappreciated heroines, organizing to kick the patriarchy's butt, and awesome light-up shoes. I think people should definitely go see this show if they get a chance. It has an important and powerful message about black female empowerment, which could make the world a better place.
Photos: Jean Lachat