SISTERALL THREE: OUR TONGUES CUT LOOSE™
SisterAll Three showcased the talents of several young black women, by way of SpiritHouse's 2009 Young Artists Series. Staceyann Chin inaugurated SisterAll III on April 22, 2009 with readings from her new and highly acclaimed memoir, The Other Side of Paradise. Alexis Caputo, a gifted writer and performance artist from Miami, followed her on May 7, 2009. Bettina Judd, Spelman graduate, visual artist and writer, came to Columbus in July for a reading and a week-long residency at SpiritHouse. Shontina Vernon, a talented singer, also appeared in July. Yasmeen ended the series in August, as the elder/mother medium who sang songs spanning black women's history in America.
Staceyann Chin is a full-time artist. A resident of New York City and a Jamaican national, she has been an "out poet and political activist" since 1998. From the rousing cheers of the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe, to one-woman shows off Broadway, to poetry workshops in Denmark and London, to co-writing and performing in the Tony-nominated, Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, Chin credits the long list of "things she has done" to her grandmother's hard-working history and the pain of her mother's absence. Hands Afire, her first one-woman show, ran for ten weeks at the Bleecker Theater in the summer of 2000. The same off-Broadway theater welcomed her second show, Unspeakable Things, in the summer of 2001, before she took it to Copenhagen for a week-long run. London, Helsinki, Sweden, and Norway are all lined up to see the new generation of the show. Chin has also been the subject of on-screen ventures - from clips and interviews on NBC, CNN, VH1, and BET, to performances on the CBS-aired Tony Award show. The film, Staceyann Chin, was released in theaters in Denmark in 2001, and it also aired on the Danish National Television station. Between the Lines, a documentary that explores the notion of being Asian, female, and a writer, is the latest piece to feature Stacyann.
Alexis Caputo is a Florida- and New York-based contemporary performance artist, poet, writer, and activist. Solo projects written and performed by Alexis include: Deconstruction & Deliverance, which toured at noteworthy off-Broadway theaters in New York (Harlem Theatre Company, Henry Street Settlement, Abron's Art Center, and Dixon Place) and The Proud Pilgrim, which debuted at the Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center in Corona, New York. The Miami-Dade Cultural Center presented Woman of the Drum and Truths Carved from the Belly. Caputo represented Delray Beach, Florida as a member of DADA Slam, a collective of poets who performed at the National Poetry Championships in Madison, Wisconsin in 2008. Caputo graduated with honors from the Universite de Paris, Sorbonne, Tisch School of the Arts and the Steinhardt School of Education at New York University. Caputo has been invited as a guest instructor at the Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami-Dade College, and she has served as Cultural Instructor for both CAW (Concerned African Women) and YWCA (Young Women's Christian Association). Her Teaching Artist Residencies are with the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, in partnership with VSA Arts of Florida, and hosted by the University of South Florida. VSA is an international non-profit organization and affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, which is based in Washington, D.C. A promoter of literacy, on behalf of the World Literacy Crusade and Girl Power, Caputo directed a youth collective performance for "at-risk" girls, and she was a cast member of the ensemble production Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery, written by Playwright Shay Youngblood and directed by Miami-Dade County Arts & Culture Icon, Cornelia Dozier.
Bettina Judd is a poet, scholar, and artist who infuses her interest in gender, social justice, and spirituality into her works. She is an alumna of Spelman College (B.A. in Comparative Women's Studies and English) and the University of Maryland (M.A. in Women's Studies). Judd is currently pursuing her doctorate in Women's Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. An accomplished poet, she is also a Cave Canem fellow and has lectured and read at numerous venues in the Washington, D.C. Metro area. Bettina Judd's poetry can be found in the online Literary Journal Torch and in Cave Canem's 11th commemorative anthology XI. Her research on lesbian genders and southern rap music can be found in a forthcoming anthology entitled Geechee to Gumbo: Black Southern Lesbian Culture & Politics. Ms. Judd's current scholarly research explores affectivity and feminist politics of U.S. Black Women's poetry, visual art, and literature. Her current poetry and visual-art project is a series of poems and block prints titled Patient. This project explores the history of gynecological experimentation on black women in the U.S., as well as the generational traumas that such practices have caused.
Shontina Vernon's voice has been described as having "a pure, yet raw, immediate quality." When she sings, whatever she sings, there is something honest in each note. Though it may evoke strains of all the greats, Shontina Vernon's sound is distinctly her own. Fusing her Texas roots, old-time religion, and city-slicker sensibilities, Shontina transcends genre distinction (and she likes it that way). Blending folk, soul, rock, and blues fairly seamlessly, it is this unwillingness to be limited that has led her to perform in a number of different arenas. Last year, she sang what The Oregonian deemed "a blood-chilling" rendition of "Strange Fruit" for the Howard Zinn: Voices of a People project in Portland. This year, her highly-anticipated solo performance piece, WANTED, in which she merges music for the first time with her other talent for playwriting, will premiere at the 2009 Hip Hop Theatre Festival in Manhattan. Shontina has done shows throughout the U.S., including, but not limited to, regular performances at Tangier Lounge in Los Angeles, Café Nuba in Denver, and 275 Grand in Brooklyn. As a background vocalist, she has appeared on Ellen, The Jay Leno Show, and the Ricky Fante PBS Special. In 2004, she released her self-titled EP. Shontina is now in the throes of working on a new music project. She currently resides in New York City.
Yasmeen can sing anything! She is a spiritual carrier, a bridge of the old to the new. She has a unique way of blending a deep soul sound into various genres - from the classics, to gospel, to jazz, to hymns, to hip-hop, to blues, to spirituals, to whatever. She has a remarkable ear, remarkable stage presence, and most of all, a remarkable spirit for music - be it with instrumentation or a cappella - Yasmeen sang a cappella with her sisters and other family members as a child. She is a conduit for the music of her ancestors, music hardly heard anymore, anywhere! She is a singer, lyricist, published songwriter, author, professional counselor, and mother to her daughter, Summer. She grew up under the singing voices of her mother from Alabama, her father from South Carolina, gospel hall-of-fame cousin Shirley Ables, church organists Professor Henry Mansfield and Professor Dorothy Davis, voice teacher Frederick "Wilkie" Wilkerson, Joy McClean Bosfield, and cultural icon Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon. She also received acting training from the D.C. Black Repertory Company, directed by actor Robert Hooks. Yasmeen sang with the internationally-acclaimed acappella sextet Sweet Honey In The Rock for approximately twenty years, and then with Jeff Majors for five years shortly thereafter. She has a solo CD, which was written in 1991 and remains in demand throughout the country in 2007. "I've gotten a request for the same CD at least once a month for over fifteen years," she adds. She has a Bachelor's Degree in English, a Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology, and she is finishing a Doctorate in Educational Psychology. When asked why she sings, she replies, "I sing because I have to." But you will listen and be touched because you want to.