Black women’s mental and physical health are often not at the forefront of news and studies, especially with the continuation of the myth of the strong black woman or medical professionals and the public who make light of our conditions.
A few days ago, I attended Jaded the Musical at The Secret Theatre in Queens, New York. Written and directed by and starring Hillary Hawkins, who also starred in Futurology, Jaded is about a troubled young girl, named Jade, who is keeping a dark secret from her family while also having to take care of a physically sick and depressed mother, Contessa, played by Nicole Renee.
The musical begins with a kind of levity to it, especially in the first few songs, but what stands out is the relationship between the mother and daughter and how each others’ pain is affecting one another. Contessa, who suffers from fibromyalgia, arthritis and a number of other physical ailments, self-medicates not only with a variety of drugs, but also alcohol, and her pain causes her to forgo showing affection for her daughter, Jade. Jade, on the other hand, has a strong attachment to her mother, as in the song she sings to her mother, “I’m Your Legs,” but a less attachment to the outside world. She is technically an adult, but acts like a child afraid of the world out there and as the musical goes, we find out just how much she is in despair, despite not having the same physical ailments as her mother.
Her mother does not readily understand what is wrong with Jade because her pain is not visible, a common perception of mental health issues. The poignant parts of the show was the two songs, “The Rap” and “Keep Getting Up” that show the tug and pull between Contessa and Jade’s ailments and a crumbling of the mask Jade holds up before finding out the sexual trauma that Jade was keeping a secret. We find out in the musical that Jade has PTSD, which was significant because how many time is that diagnosis mentioned with rape survivors or black women. Although the musical needed some smoother transitions to a few of the songs, a little more training for Hawkin’s dramatic singing voice, and to be a little less obvious in certain places in the script, what was at the heart of it was that it showed black women and their vulnerability, that we, too, are human.
The last showing at The Secret Theatre is tomorrow at 8pm.