“Black Power” was the mantra in the 1960s at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the rise of the Black Panther Party. The fight for equality spread across the United States with two distinct, yet popular ideologies with the purpose of empowering Black Americans and denouncing racism, discrimination and bigotry. But what about sexism and misogyny?
Panther Woman, a one-woman 2021 Cincy Fringe stage show conceived and directed by Qurell Amani, offers a fictional retelling of a woman as a member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The organization, founded by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seals in 1966, was widely popular for its efforts to provide community-based resources to Black Americans and despised by law enforcement for its armed stances against police brutality.
Elizabeth Leigh Taylor plays Panther Woman, a mesh of known and unknown women in the party, including as Angela Davis and Elaine Brown, who act as anchors to the movement and the men who led it. They love and fight hard. If you are familiar with the history of the party in its early days, then the battle by women to gain leadership roles is familiar. If not, let this hour-long production serve as a timely history lesson. Taylor seamlessly moves through her character’s life story offering anecdotes of how her experiences have shaped her into the woman she is today. Love, hope, and struggle are common themes as the actor passionately connected with the audience using Amani’s decade-long creation.
While the script content is rated R (17+), it is not overwhelming to the point of being offensive. More so, it’s part of a larger story that will move audiences to examine the effects of oppression on a group of individuals — whether it is Black Americans fighting for equality in American or Black women fighting for the same within their own race and organizations.
Panther Woman is a great representation of how progress can be made from struggle. But it should not have to be. While women in America have always long for equality, Black women have had the extra burden of race and gender holding them back from progress. Panther Woman gives voice to the struggle that Black women face. With strength and determination success is possible.
The Cincinnati Fringe Festival takes place June 4-19. For more information, show descriptions, a schedule and tickets, visit cincyfringe.com.