Racial and individual identity as it pertains to black women through the lenses of performance and painting

Plan Author

  • Saron Zewdie, 2018

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: African-American Political Thought
  • Course: Self-Identity, Social Context, and Ethical Choice
  • Tutorial: Shaping Image of Black Womanhood
  • Course: Physical Theater: The Language of the Body

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Andrea Hairston, Smith College


This Plan includes a critical paper, “Black Women in Confined Spaces,” reflecting on two plays, A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and its 2010 spin-off Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris. Presenting two distinctly important representations of black women, the plays provide an insight into the multiple perspectives of black female characters. The Plan also includes an art show and a production of Wine in the Wilderness, Alice Childer’s play exploring black womanhood during a 1964 race riot in Harlem.


The society we live in has set a system in place that values and associates loudness with importance and power. Women are often viewed as lacking confidence or competence due to at worst being silenced and at best living out the cliche ‘behind every great man there’s a great woman.’ However, often the issue is not the inherent character of women but how women have been socially trained to stay in the background. In many cases, including 1960s in Chicago, there is an expectation of silence embedded in the upbringing of individuals identified as female. The issue of finding a voice is further complicated when race and class are identified as significant factors.

A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourn Park represent the Black women in their respective plays in ways that individualize them, highlight the important role they play and show how Black women are silenced as an important social commentary. A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourn Park also touch on the issue of housing discrimination just enough so that the audience can grasp and even further inquire into its extensive effects. These plays exhibit an ability to have a broad message about the effects of racism, sexism and classism and address housing discrimination, while presenting the Black women as individuals.


The inspiration for my Plan was my own journey of self-rediscovery as a Black woman from Ethiopia and the new, often negatively viewed, identity I had to find a way to proudly adapt to. I have created all of my Plan work as a ‘for us, by us’ type of exploration of self identity and the celebration of Black women from all walks of life. I was most interested in my deeply narrative painting and my performance and directing of characters that speak through us but also us through them. I want to continue acting and painting, all the while to create complex characters that are neither black nor white, in the sense of being complex and deserving of deep analyses.