Explosive Full Stage Production in Support of Project Mona’s House, Honors The Strength Of Women Who Have Survived/Overcome Human Trafficking. It’s Also A Dedication to Ujima Theatre’s Late, Great Lorna C. Hill
On December 11, 12, and 13, 2020 the long-anticipated passion project conceived, produced, written and directed by Celeste M. Lawson, Typography of Women: I Am Not Invisible, will be available for online viewing on VIMEO. Vimeo is a high-quality video hosting platform used by many professional filmmakers and videographers. Typography of Women gives viewers an insiders’ perspective on human trafficking that is grounded in the written words shared by real women in our community who suffered trafficking and managed to escape their captors. They turned to Project Mona’s House in Buffalo, the only transitional residence in Western New York dedicated to helping women trafficking victims restore and rebuild their lives.
The performance was originally scheduled to make its debut March 2020 in Rockwell Hall, but the Covid-19 pandemic put a screeching halt to Typography’s plans. After several months of lockdown and a hiatus from rehearsals, the project was re-energized, the actors regrouped and began rehearsing again over the summer months, with one stark and glaring difference. Lorna C. Hill, a cast member and close friend of Lawson’s lost her battle with cancer in June.
Initially, it was difficult for me to imagine the production without her,” said Lawson, “but, Lorna was clear and organized to the end. She had already chosen her own understudy; Shantinna Moore. Shanntina is an outstanding Artie award-winning actor and a wonderful person to boot; proving once again the fine judgement of Lorna.”
Typography of Women is recorded in Ujima’s new home space at 429 Plymouth Avenue in Buffalo. Lorna had offered on several occasions the use of the theater for this project, so it was natural for the project to take its final form in Ujima. The cast and crew felt it would be a wonderful tribute to dedicate the performance to Lorna and her legacy and still maintain its status as a benefit for Project Mona’s House. It is especially fitting because Lorna was a life-long advocate for social justice and women’s empowerment.
Lawson, along with choreographer Robin Hibbert, also named co-director by Lawson for Hibbert’s creativity in building innovative choreographies, but also for selecting most of the music for the show and working closing with Celeste as her visions for the show became more lucid. Robin was always able to respond with creative and ingenious approaches to the dance numbers. Ultimately the duo was able to weave together a performance that is well-balanced, beautiful to look at, and blended into a poignant and inspiring story that takes audiences on a journey from pain to purpose to self-actualization.
It is a large cast and features some of the community’s most talented and beloved performers. Actors include Vernice Turner, Shanntina Moore, Melinda Capeles, Brandon Williamson, Dayatra Hassan, Vonetta T. Rhodes, Tashani Wiggins, Dee “Dewel” Perez, Gunilla Kester, Joy Scime, Goodness Shawndrell Green, and KerryKate Abel-Smith. The dancers are equally talented and include Natasha Perkins, Dana “Roxy” Harris, Megan A. Rakeepile, Gaitrie Subryan, Netanya Thompson, Janee Brown, Courtney C. Costanzo, and Ginna Wilson.
Featured vocalists for Typography include Sara Rogers, Alex McArthur, and Yvette D. Hicks as well as musicians Nelson Rivera, Anthony Henry, Ade Kasumu, and Griot Alassane Saar. Highlights of the show include deeply moving and inspiring selections performed by artist activist and composer/vocalist, Drea D’Nur, who along with Lawson and Hibbert, are among the original planners for this project.
“I also want to give a special word of thanks to the crew of Typography,” states Lawson, “they were all in at 110% and without them we could not have made the vision real. Nick Quinn, Dana Fischer-McPhaden, Tyler Furniss, Vincent Murphy, and the outstanding team at Expressed Entertainment, a family-owned minority business with a woman CEO making exceptional products in, about, and for our community.”
Please make your reservation early – by December 6th for the advance ticket price of $22. After December 6th the price increases to $27. Make your reservation with your bankcard or credit card. Your card WILL NOT be charged until the release date of the video on December 11th, 2020 and you are sent the link to view the show. You will have access to the video for 72 hours, (3 days) to watch the performance at a time that is convenient and works for you.
Please join us, work with us in the battle to bring an end to human trafficking. Be a freedom fighter! Human trafficking is real. It is in our community. It can happen to anybody.
Below is a recap on the original announcement and image we published on the production that included the late great Lorna C. Hill Founder of Ujima Co. Inc. (far top right row) to whom the project is now dedicated to as well as Kelly Diane Galloway founder of Project Mona’s House and Celeste Lawson.
According to the Polaris Project, the national watch organization against Human Trafficking, there are 44 million people worldwide caught in the clutches of this form of modern day slavery. Human Trafficking is a global crisis situation she points out, and the Buffalo Niagara Region has a very real human trafficking problem.
“It is not a crime of the inner city,” Ms. Lawson points out. “Trafficking takes place in upscale suburban neighborhoods, in city apartments, in rural farm communities, in schools and in foster care. There is no geographic exemption for human trafficking, and no specific profile of a trafficking criminal.”
Locally, human trafficking incidents have taken place in Lancaster, Orchard Park, Elmwood Village, Cheektowaga, and metro Buffalo, just to name a few.
Consider these facts:
•The United States is both the largest consumer and exporter of human trafficking in the world.
•Over 70 percent of trafficking victims are American citizens who have been abducted, deceived, or betrayed and forced into the human trade business
•70 percent of human commerce consumers
The average age of victims in the commercial sex trade ranges from 11 years to 14 years old but, can be and are often, much younger. n Online trafficking is growing in leaps and bounds and affects primarily young teens. It’s been documented that a child is worth about $300,000 a year to a trafficker, and the average lifespan of a child caught up in trafficking is only about 7 years before they succumb to death, either by addiction, violence, illness, or suicide.
“ The women of Project Mona’s House all have a different story but are all grounded in the same dark mire of deception, coercion, and betrayal,” pointed out Lawson. “They come from all walks of life, diverse ethnicities, and a range of social, educational, and economic status. They are all at least 18 years old and may have suffered the trauma of trafficking for only a few months to many years, perhaps even most of their lives up until this point. They are fighting for their lives. They want to have a future free from fear and open to opportunities to achieve personal goals.”
In addition to bringing awareness and support to the fight against Human Trafficking, and promoting the work of Project Mona’s House, Typography of Women is meant to be a vehicle that shares information on the ways we, as a community, can do our part to deter human trafficking in our region.
“Kelly Diane often uses a phrase in her public presentations,” concluded Celeste, ‘The eye won’t see what the brain doesn’t know what to look for.’ The aspiration of Typography of Women is to help everyone learn and understand more about recognizing the signals, symptoms, and circumstances that could be a trafficking situation. Everyone is invited and welcome to join the fight against this crime inflicted on humanity. We all need to know and we all need to understand it can happen to anybody!”