Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Child of the Movement

Play #56 (Make-up #14) - Child of the Movement by Cheryl Davis

Well... this play was disturbing in a whole different way from the last one. Although this, too, was based on a true story.

The scene is a living room in Montgomery, AL in 1955. A 56-year-old man and a 16-year-old girl are having a meeting because this 16-year-old girl was recently arrested and beaten for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man. She is a polite, well-spoken, passionate, tough young woman, and the NAACP has seen her case as just the match they need to light the fire for the fight for civil rights. In this meeting, however, the girl confesses to the man that she has become pregnant. At this point, the whole tenor of the conversation changes. He no longer sees her as a good girl, a wronged child, a face of the upstanding African American. Now he sees a harlot, a ruined woman. He sees someone who can do nothing for the cause. She argues that she knows her rights, she believes in her rights, and she is still the same strong, smart person she was when they began the conversation, but he pushes her aside, sends her home, and assures her that history will forget her completely. Then, he gets on the phone to Rosa Parks.

The name of the girl to whom this situation actually happened was Claudette Colvin. What's particularly awful about this story is that the NAACP wasn't necessarily wrong in their estimation. If they had put a pregnant teenager up there instead of soft spoken, upstanding Rosa Parks, white naysayers would certainly have ignored anything she had to say, patting themselves on the back for being right about those loose morals. So this poor girl gets tossed aside because of a bad decision. This young girl was impregnated by an older man, and the man sitting in front of her accuses her of leading him away from his wife. After all, he tells her, "It's the woman's job to say no to the man." And if she doesn't, then she's filthy and wrong. The man remains above reproach - largely because he will bear no physical consequences from the encounter. No one can look at a man and no that he has participated in a pregnancy. But when a woman is pregnant, it's pretty much all you can see. What's even more awful, is that this is a stigma that women and girls still face today. The way society judges a woman who has sex outside of marriage is wildly disproportionately negative in comparison to the way it judges a man. This girl had something to say that was worth hearing, but she was silenced by the very people who had called her to speak, because she wasn't the "right kind" of woman. The hypocrisy is practically viscous. And unequivocally vicious.

Yeah... this is another play that people should see... and that should cause some people no small amount of shame.

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