Questions & Answers
Portraits of Courage inspires and brings back memories
Vida Snyder, a COCC culinary student and president of the Black Student union joined together with Karen Roth, multicultural activities director to bring Portraits of Courage to COCC on Jan. 20, 2011.
The performance of Portraits of Courage, African American you Wish you had Known brought the lives of African American historical figures to the stage. The actors presented an “examination of noted African-Americans and their contributions to American history,” according to the theater company’s website.
The performance still resonates with Snyder.
What were the most inspiring elements of the show?
“Two things I think. One is the actors—it’s only a two man show. They were excellent. In their portrayal of [the African Americans from history], they spoke to us like they were speaking directly. They were telling their story. It transported you into their time. It was strange that one person with no set, no props, nothing except for their costumes could bring you there, but their voice, their accents, it brought you to them. That was powerful.”
The second inspiring element for Snyder was the background videos, scenes from the time of the character, which was a time of lynching and segregation.
“The [music] pieces that they chose to play [along with the videos]were contemporary pieces that had a feeling in the music, feeling in the words and then to…see what we were seeing on the screen, it all meshed really well and was so powerful. Watching those videos almost took me back to being in school in Astoria, Oregon. I was the only brown person in the whole entire school and…getting a little flak…kids can be harsh. It took me back to sitting in classrooms when I was young, in history class, and them playing a black and white film of really what’s going on, slavery, and people were laughing and making jokes and I would just sit in my chair and cry.”
“It wasn’t so much a black thing for me, it was a humanity thing. [The videos from the performance] brought me back to that place that this is not okay. It’s not okay now and it wasn’t okay then. ..Because it sparked inside of me for humanity, it raises that question: What am I doing? What’s my part?”
Had you heard of the African American portrayed in the show?
“It wasn’t that I hadn’t heard their names, but I hadn’t heard much about them…It was so powerful. They are telling their story to us and it puts you there. It didn’t only say “shame on you” it was more like “look what we’ve accomplished.”
Would you think about hosting more of these type of events?
“Absolutely. We had tears, we laughed and we applauded. The audience responded so much to what [the actors] were doing. We were there.”