The University Record, October 16, 2000

Performance focuses on ‘Aunt Jemima’ as an icon

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Re/membering Aunt Jemima: A Menstrual Show will be presented at 8 p.m. Oct. 18 in the Trueblood Theatre. Written and directed by Glenda Dickerson, professor of theatre and drama, and author Breena Clarke, the free, public performance is sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program and the Institute for Research on Women and Gender.

This ensemble work with music patterned after the traditional minstrel show pushes the boundaries of traditional African American theater, shattering myths and stereotypes that have plagued African American women for centuries.

The playwrights have used their experiences of motherhood, daughterhood, wifehood, sisterhood, friendship, bereavement, sexism, racism and classism to show Jemima not as a stereotype of African American women, but as an icon rooted in the ancient African tradition of household orisha.

“In celebrating the character and person of Aunt Jemima,” the authors say, “we do not condone the stereotype as she has been used to oppress African American women. Rather, we acknowledge the shame we all feel at the sight of her, at the sound of her name. We acknowledge her as the symbol and the repository of the shame, disease and self-hatred from which we wish to free ourselves.”

To that end the authors created The Aunt Jemima Traveling Menstrual Show complete with La Madama Interlock-it-Togetherer, songs, sarcasm, wit and truths.

“It is the real woman that we love and mean to celebrate,” the authors say. “When you strip away the preconceived notions that make us cringe at the mention of Aunt Jemima’s name, what you are left with is a big, strong, capable woman who came with us from Africa, who guided our journey through bondage, who is with us still.”