April 20, 2014


 My Walk Has Never Been Average:

Stories of Black Tradeswomen Back by Popular Demand

June 7, 2014 – What is it like to be a Black woman working in the construction trades in America? And if I’m not that woman, why should I care? How does her life impact mine?

The answer to that question will become apparent when you join the August Wilson Red Door Project and Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc, as they present My Walk Has Never Been Average followed by a Community Forum on June 7th at 1:00 p.m.  The performance and forum will be at Self Enhancement, Inc., 3920 N. Kerby Ave, North Portland. First Unitarian Church is also pleased to be a sponsor of this event.

Tickets are $10.00 and are available through at (503) 445-6658 or at this link: 

My Walk Has Never Been Average is a multimedia presentation based on the lives of women whose stories are rarely told. Adapted for the stage from in-depth, first-person interviews with Black women in all aspects of construction, these stories reveal great inner strength and accomplishment in the face of the multiple oppressions facing Black working class women in America. These are stories of families and communities, of fighting for survival and achieving success, and of relationship dynamics when women move out of nontraditional roles.

“Walk” played to sold out crowds during the Fertile Ground Festival in February and last week at Portland State University as part of Sexual Awareness Month.  The June 7 performance is followed by a community forum which is made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program.  The forum will feature a live facebook stream of participant responses to three questions:  a) How workplaces can become more inclusive;  b) how Portland can become a more inclusive city; and c) how art can be a powerful instrument of social change.

The interviews were conducted by Roberta S. Hunte, who teaches Black Studies, Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Conflict Resolution at Portland State. Professor Hunte’s dissertation is the original source material for Walk. When asked what she hopes to achieve through this theatrical presentation, Dr. Hunte said, “We rarely talk about working class women and work. Pundits talk about work in the media, but rarely do we hear grassroots folks talking about what it means to have a job, to find meaning in work, and what is required of some of us to walk our path. “

Walk is directed by Catherine Ming T’ien Duffly, who teaches theater and performance studies at Reed College. Dr. Duffly is a proponent and successful practitioner of community based theatre, which uses theatre art and artists as social change agents. When asked why she was drawn to the project, Professor Duffly said, “What I love about the intersection of theatre and social change work is that it allows audiences to experience a given issue in a new way, and to offer new insight and new solutions to long-established problems.  Theatre holds the potential to generate conversations that might not otherwise occur in our day-to-day lives.  It allows audiences and theater makers to witness, imagine, and possibly even enact better futures.”

Bonnie Ratner, who adapted the material into a stage piece, is also the Executive Director of the August Wilson Red Door Project. The Red Door’s mission is to use the arts and dialogue to change the racial ecology of Portland. Promoting work by, about, and featuring artists of color is one of the ways the Red Door helps Portland move toward this change. Ratner, a playwright and screenwriter, got involved when she read a chapter of Hunte’s original dissertation. “These stories just jumped off the page,” she said. “They were funny, scary, infuriating. They cried out to be fully embodied. Roberta and I started to scheme, and when Kate came on board, followed by eight terrific actresses, our alliance was complete.

In fact, alliances are at the center of Walk, whose women find support in both likely and unlikely places. Their journey is difficult, rewarding and inspiring. It will open your eyes and touch your heart, no matter what your own “walk” might be.

The June 7th performance of My Walk Has Never Been Average stars Roslyn Farrington, Shelley Matthews, Angela Bonilla, Wanda Abioto, Damaris Webb, Skeeter Greene, Aiyanna Cunningham and Josie Seid.