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15 February 2008

Black History Month Event:
"Portraits of Courage:
African-Americans I Wish I Had Known"

The Los Angeles-based acting ensemble Will and Company will perform "Portraits of Courage: African-Americans I Wish I Had Known," at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 20 in the Leone Cole Auditorium on the JSU campus. The play is about six little known African American heroes.   Playwright Colin Cox wrote "Portraits" to enlighten, encourage and educate a multigenerational and multicultural audience on some of the unsung heroes of African-American history.

Los Angeles-based actors, Christy Joy Wilson and Will Owens,  portray historical characters such as Madame C. J. Walker, Fannie Lou Hammer, and W. E. B. DuBois. The play explores through words and dramatic monologues the societal contributions of key African-American leaders.

Wilson gives an impressive interpretation of Madam C. J. Walker, Ida B. Wells, and Fannie Lou Hamer.  Owens portrays Colonel Charles Young, Bass Reeves and Lewis Latimer.  The actors take turns presenting their characters, each of which recounts the story of how his or her life became part of American history.

Wilson's portrayal of Madam C. J. Walker is full of optimism.  The first American woman of any race to become a millionaire through her own efforts, she invented "The Walker System," a shampoo or pomade "hair grower."

Wilson gives a passionate presentation of Ida B. Wells, a fearless anti-lynching crusader, an advocate for women's rights, and a journalist who spoke up about public issues when no else would.  She also interprets the powerless, but yet courageous Fannie Lou Hamer, memorable for her quote "sick and tired of being sick and tired."

Owens' powerful presentation of  Colonel Young captures the essence of a proud, strong  military officer, the Colonel who took his troops to battle with courage and inspiration.

Young was only the third African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point.  He was also an officer with the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalries.

Owens' entertaining portrayal of Bass Reeves, the most important United States Marshall in Indian Territory fro 32 years, was humorously informative, especially in his encounters with outlaws.  Though he did not know how to read, he captured more outlaws than any of his contemporaries.

Owens also presents Lewis Latimer, a Renaissance man and member of the Edison Pioneers, a group associated with the famous inventor Thomas Edison.  In fact, he was a key figure in the engineering division of the Edison Light Company.

The dramatic production is free and open to the public. The performance piece is an examination of notable African-Americans and their contributions to American history.

Visit the Portraits of Courage Website for more information.

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