During the month of November visit CocoaFly.com for my Black Women and Sexual Empowerment Series. The series is a celebration of black women's bodies and the diversity of black female sexuality. On social media, look for the hashtag #BlackWomenSexuality.
I love being a black woman. And there's so much to being a black woman--our loving, our struggles and triumphs, our beauty, our spirit. We're often misrepresented and underrepresented in mainstream media. That is why I'm constantly looking for art and media by black women that tell our stories. Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters is the play I've been waiting for. In her one-woman show, actress and writer Echo Brown, 31, powerfully shares her personal experience of love, sexuality, interracial dating, abuse, race and so much more. She covers the complexities of young, Black womanhood through a heartfelt blend of humor, drama and a surprising Beyoncé dance tutorial. I laughed. I cried. I left her show saying, "Damn that was deep."
Brown's solo show often sells out. I'm amazed this is the first show she has ever written. She said she had no acting experience prior to this production.
Brown plays a 23-year-old version of herself who moves to New York City after graduating from Dartmouth. She lands a job investigating allegations of misconduct by NYPD officers. Brown is also a virgin looking for love. She finds it on Craigslist where she meets Ryan--a cute, white hipster from Portland, living in Brooklyn. The play begins on the night she's anticipating having sex for the first time. As she prepares for Ryan's arrival to her apartment, she reminisces on her past experiences in life that brought her to this point.
Black Virgins Are Not For Hipsters runs at The Marsh Theatre in San Francisco through December. Sometimes Brown performs the show in her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. She wants to perform in other venues and colleges around the country after the show wraps up in San Francisco.
I spoke with Brown who lives in Oakland. We discussed her life and the issues she raises in the play.
JD: Is this based on your life?
EB: All of the events happened. How it's put together is the art of it.
JD:. What inspired you to write the show?
EB: I just moved here from New York and had such a hard time dating out here. It's unbelievable to me. I've been out here for four years and maybe dated like two or three people. I thought I was going to write this cute show about dating, then all of this trauma emerged. That's what I needed to write and I didn't stop.
JD: Why is a young, attractive Black woman and Dartmouth graduate a virgin at 23?
JD and EB: [Laughter]
EB: Story of my life.
If you have been so conditioned with ideas, as I was, that you are unattractive because you're too dark and you look African-- and if you receive those messages from multiple sources like people in your family, your community and the media, then you grow up with a really low self-esteem. Which is what I had and what I still struggle with. I closed myself down entirely, and was only able to come out of that when I was 23.
JD: What changed at 23?
EB: First of all, I needed to get some action. Getting no action will make you crazy.
JD and EB: [Laughter]
JD: Yes it will!
EB: Who knows when the [personal] work that you do actually blossoms.
I remember the moment. I was walking down the street in New York, and feeling super lonely. And I just had a thought to myself that somebody must want to date me. That thought propelled me to look for this person. It was some kind of internal shift for me.
JD: You talk about hardships black men experience, including your brother and the legal system.
EB: When I got out of college my brother was going to prison for the first time and that was so traumatic for me. It's not like people just go to prison and do their time. People have connections to families. You send somebody to prison, you're sending somebody's son, brother. It's traumatizing. I'm worried about my brother. I'm trying to do this job. I'm trying to find somebody to love me.
JD: You have compassion for Black men. But you also share your pain of being rejected and abused by Black men. Why was it important to include this in the story?
EB: That was hard for me to put in there because Black men are so crucified in the media. It's hard when you want to talk about an issue in the community, but you want to be united on all fronts. But it has to be in there because I'm being truthful. The people who have victimized me the most in my life have been black men.
The father that I talk about in the play is my stepfather. My actual father left me and was one of the people that called me ugly. I've had systematic abuse from a lot of different Black men and hardly any positive reinforcement. I wanted to balance this out by showing love to my brother, a black man in the play and not have this "Oh this white man saved me [idea]."
JD: What's your response to someone who thinks you started dating a white guy because of your issues with black men?
Visit CocoaFly.com to read the rest of this interview. To learn more about the show email firstname.lastname@example.org.