09 Oct Exclusive: New Performance Project VOICES to Replace Vagina Monologues and Focus on Experiences of Black Women (The Root)
by Tonja Renée Stidhum (The Root)
The year 2020 has served as an opportunity for many people to pivot in their careers—and the same can be said for programming in the arts.
The Root has exclusively learned that V-Day (a global activist movement organization with a mission to end violence against women) is replacing the highly popular episodic play The Vagina Monologues with VOICES, “a new interdisciplinary performance arts project and campaign grounded in Black women’s stories.”
From the press release sent to The Root:
VOICES seeks to unify the vision of ending violence against women (cis women and trans women) and nonbinary and gender fluid people across the African Continent and African Diaspora, with the goal of using art to embody and inspire solidarity.
Launching today, Oct. 9, VOICES is the brainchild of poet and activist Aja Monet and Tony Award-winning playwright, activist and V-Day Founder V (formerly Eve Ensler).
“I [aim to] create in the spiritual legacy of the Black Arts Movement,” Monet told The Root. “My community organizing work is rooted in the power of art and culture shaping and animating our freedom dreams and movements. I chose to work on this project [VOICES] because we need an immediate end to violence against women all over this planet. Equally important, in this role I can be my most multidimensional self—a poet and also an organizer who is also a Black woman. This artistic project and campaign is a convergence of my deepest passions, concerns, and hopes. Our goal is to organize around an international third world feminist politic and to support Black women storytellers on the African continent as well as the African Diaspora.”
Speaking of Black women’s voices, VOICES has launched a global poetry, prose, visual art submission contest for Black women artists and writers from around the world.
More info, via the press release:
In this inaugural year, VOICES will create a new piece curated by Monet, in her new role as V-Day’s new Artistic Creative Director, VOICES Campaign. She will be reaching out to Black women artists across the planet, inviting submissions of poems, monologues, and songs that will be assembled into a V-Day performance piece in the coming year. The review process will be conducted by Monet and a team of 3 artists and activists with the goal of selecting specific pieces to include in the final version of VOICES. The deadline for submissions to VOICES is December 31, 2020. It is anticipated that the piece will be completed by Fall 2021.
V, who wrote The Vagina Monologues, confirms that while the show will remain a play, it will be bowing out of the V-Day campaigns to make way for VOICES.
V says in a statement:
“We have seen in America and across the world the most hideous murders of Black men and women by the police, especially trans women who are put at disproportionate risk, and an escalation of white supremacy. Most recently, we have witnessed the horrific murder of Breonna Taylor and the outrageous injustice that followed. I have been doing deep reflection about our V-Day global activist movement to end violence against all women (cisgender and transgender), those who hold fluid identities, nonbinary people, girls and the planet – our past and our present and where I believe we need to go in the future. I believe something more is being called for now. I have been doing deep reflection about my life as a white woman playwright and activist. I am fully aware of the depth of my privilege, access to networks and resources that have helped to produce my work. I believe this is the moment we need to uplift and be in deepest solidarity with Black women: cis women, trans women, and non-binary people across the African Continent and African Diaspora. We need to share networks and resources that will bring their voices into the center of our movement. I am thrilled to announce the VOICES campaign and Aja as the Artistic Creative Director. Aja is an extraordinary writer, performer, organizer and truth teller. The perfect person to initiate this project.”
Additionally, VOICES will be leading a biweekly and ongoing conversation series on Instagram Live to help encourage submissions for its program as well as foster an empowering public dialogue for and about Black women. The first conversation will kick off featuring Monet and V today Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. ET on the VOICES official Instagram page, @visforvoices.
“As we struggle with one another for collective liberation, healing, and joy we need new vocabularies and to speak from our uncensored hearts,” Monet says in a statement. “We have to heal and to affirm ourselves. We need to be united and connected through our differences. If we truly organize and come together, we can clear a path for ourselves and our sisters coming after us. We are dedicated to a radical feminist future born of international solidarity, resistance to racism, class bias, homophobia, and transphobia. This piece will ultimately be in service and for Black women all over the world, to speak to the complexities of our experiences as well as a collective vision for change, justice, compassion and solidarity. We seek to encourage and establish a world that fosters radical truth-telling love.”