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SKiNFOLK: An American Show

SKiNFOLK: An American Show

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SKiNFOLK: An American Show
by Jillian Walker
Sept 2022
104 pages
5.75x8.75 inches
paper/perfect bound
ISBN: 978-1732545274

SKiNFoLK: An American Show by Jillian Walker Is a quilted ritual of liberation, bearing witness to the playwright-performer’s identity, heritage and legacy as a Black woman in this America. This ancestor-revering epic collides with blues, jazz, neosoul, pop, rock, and spiritual Black legacies. What will you see in the archive? Who will you meet? What is down at the root? What color is the sky, again?


"SKiNFoLK is...[a retelling of] Walker's family history--and by extension, the history of America--in the hopes of reclaiming the joys of blackness in all its complexity."
- Jose Solís, New York Times

"The artist has penned a ritual that evokes the soul of black folx. She has crafted something deeply personal that charts a heritage that illuminates the rich inheritance that is not just hers but collectively ours. It was an honor to contribute to the life of this work and see it provide a community a salve."
- Jonathan McCrory

only through jillian's mind, body, and artistry could a play...
become an unfurling of rationality and colonialism
refusing to give into white colonial logic or aesthetic
she transcends traditional western theater values
and demands a presence with our own bodies
one that we have become so accustomed to avoiding
- abigail jean-baptiste


Jillian Walker :: Gogo Yema is a multidimensional artist (composer, playwright, performer, vocalist, dramaturg), diviner, healer, teacher, and Sangoma Priestess. She is a guide of Ancestral healing, spirituality and creative consciousness through multiple dimensions, back and forward generationally across timelines, bloodlines, and legacy. With her spiritual practice as the central portal, she has created and supported over a decade of art in the fields of theater and performance, music, film, television, as well as throughout the academy, in healing spaces, women’s circles, prisons, places of worship, and sacred spaces at and across the oceans.

She blesses the honor of her lineages through performance and practice. Her most acclaimed work, SKiNFoLK: An American Show (The Bushwick Starr/National Black Theatre: NY Times Critics Pick, Kilroys List, Lilly Award) is published by 53rd State Press. Her other plays and projects have received numerous honors and include Songs of Speculation (JACK, 2020 Third Coast Audio Unbound Award) and Sarah’s Salt.(Winner Columbia@Roundabout, Bay Area Playwrights Festival Finalist, Relentless Award honorable mention). Her latest onstage script(ure), The Whitney Album, appeared in Soho Rep’s ’22-’23 season. One of Gogo’s favorite descriptions of her onstage work comes from Poet and Prophet Alexis Pauline Gumbs, who described her Joe’s Pub concert, Blue Ink, as “Transformational, Black feminist, ancestral-portal-opening, love-centered musical work.”

With her multifaceted training and education in traditional academic spaces (BA: The University of Michigan, MFA: Columbia University) and ancient afro-indigenous traditions (Chief teachers, Makhosi Himi Gogo Thule Ngane, Queen Baba Solstice Kha Ekhaya Esima, Makhosi Foundation), Jillian :: Gogo holds a unique combination of intellectual curiosity, spiritual rigor and an incredible capacity for deep listening and collaboration with people, built and natural worlds, time/space, Ancestors and all of the unseen.

Some of Gogo’s favorite collaborations include: writing/performing and serving as Process Director with The TEAM (Reconstructing), creating Move, Meditate, Make with Libby King, holding prompt-based performance classes with the students at The University of Washington and Harvard, holding circle with the women in Nisha Moodley’s Soul of Leadership, and sitting in prayer, song and healing space with her spiritual family at the Makhosi Foundation.

BLK GRK (or, hiding in plain sight), a multiversal, poetic film exploration of the history of Black Greek Letter Organizations, is a deep upcoming collaboration with co-conceivers, Rachel Chavkin and Eric Berryman, and has expanded Jillian into its screenwriter, composer and star, alongside Eric Berryman. Gogo is also deepening in collaboration with fellow artists, culture-shifters and devoted leaders as the Founding Artist and Studio Mother of her own sacred healing house, Legasea, opening its doors in the Fall of 2023.

From a heartspace that flows out of The Love of the Ancestors, she continues to incite and inspire sublime new forms of art, structures, and communal systems that break the brutal boundaries of the colonial imagination.

Dr. Kasaun Henry is a public intellectual, motivational speaker, award-winning filmmaker, composer, music theorist, and international music producer from Harlem, New York. His rich history as an intellectual, an artist, and a philosopher are deeply influenced by his upbringing in Harlem. He was the captain of the historic chess team the Raging Rooks and led two national championship teams in 1991 and 1998.

Kasaun is a dedicated educator, writer, philosopher and lecturer of social thought and an advocate for enlightened humanity. He uses his experiences and vast knowledge base to inspire possibilities and provide motivation in his community and the general public. He has taught and given lectures at private and public schools of all age levels, community and renowned colleges (Hudson County Community College, The University of Michigan, Bloomfield College), corporations, churches, and community centers. His wide-ranging interests as a speaker cover areas such as education, history, philosophy, religion and music. Kasaun hosts the “PoliticalSoulFood Podcast” on which he discusses politics, education and history in an accessible and passionate conversation for the youth and the general public. He also transformed his PoliticalSoulFood work into a film series that captures the issues and realities of Black life in Harlem through his production company, Harlemwood Studios.

Kasaun holds a Ph.D. in History & Culture from Drew University, a Master’s in History and Culture (Drew University), Master of Letters, concentration in Philosophy (Faulkner University) and a Master’s in Music Theory (University of Michigan). Presently, his academic interests are Black intellectual history, history of human rights, and theories of secularization.

Phillip Howze is an American playwright and educator whose works have been produced at theaters across the country. He’s a 2021 Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, a MAP Fund recipient, and a Resident Writer at Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3 where he’s also commissioned to write a new play. Recently he was appointed the Associate Senior Lecturer at Harvard University’s Theater, Dance & Media program. His writing has been published by American Theatre magazine and 53rd State Press, and his new play collection Rarities & Wonders: Plays is available from Tripwire Harlot Press.

Nia O. Witherspoon is a Black queer multidisciplinary artist + healing justice practitioner investigating the metaphysics of black liberation, desire, and diaspora, as they track across the space-time continuum. Combining Black feminism, indigenous epistemologies, eco-feminism, and auto-critogrophy with mediums in writing, performance, sound, and installation, Witherspoon creates portals for communion, witnessing, and healing. Current and recent works include: Priestess of Twerk: A Black Femme Temple (HERE Art Center/Musical Theatre Factory, 2024), Chronicle X: The Dark Girl Chronicles (The Shed, 2021), and MESSIAH (La Mama, 2019). She is a NEFA/NTP recipient, a Creative Capital Awardee, a Jerome New Artist Fellow, a current artist in residence at HERE Art Center and Musical Theatre Factory, and former resident at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange and New York Theatre Workshop. Her work has been or will be featured by The Shed, BRIC, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Joe’s Pub, HERE, JACK, La Mama ETC, Playwright’s Realm, Links Hall, National Black Theatre, Brava Theatre, BAAD, Movement Research, BAX, Dixon Place, Painted Bride, 651 Arts, and elsewhere. Her writing is published in the Journal of Popular Culture; Imagined Theatres; Women and Collective Creation; and IMANIMAN: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands. She holds a BA in American Studies from Smith College, a PhD from Stanford University in Theatre and Performance Studies, and has held academic appointments at Florida State University, Arizona State University, University of Massachusetts, Fordham University, and BerkleeNYC.
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