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Introducing The Caged Bird Sings – Interview with Paula Larke

By Chandra Allen

The Caged Bird Sings is the first in a series of Phenomenal Woman program events and a tribute to Maya Angelou and her victory over her personal childhood trauma.

Join us for an afternoon of poetry, song and African dance dedicated to global warriors against the oppression of women and children and featuring nationally acclaimed “truth teller” and musician, Paula Larke, professional dancer Bolanile Ajanaku Habib, and a local team of poets, singers, dancers, and young drummers.

This week, I’m excited to introduce Paula Larke who is the creative director and lead musician and storyteller for, “The Caged Bird Sings” at Scarritt-Bennett Center on Saturday, February 7th, 2015 from 3:00pm-5:00pm.

Paula Larke is a dramatist, writer, musician, and, in her own words, a “story-teller / gatherer”. She was artist – in – residence at the Riverside Church, NY, until May of 2002. She is a veteran of the Broadway, Off-Broadway, and touring stages. For over 25-years and counting, Paula has performed nationally, primarily in the South and Northwest, presenting chants, songs, and spirituals from Tuskegee, Alabama; the Georgia Sea Islands; the Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains; and the Piedmont Plateau region of North Carolina.

She tells and gathers tales, as well, from many cultures. She uses her stories and songs to illustrate Biblical and universally spiritual principles. Her work covers much territory: addiction recovery, school bullying and violence, racism, heritage, and, always, grace in healing. She is a modern-day djali (village chronicler in West Africa), carrying the personal stories of ordinary people to the altar of life for benediction and forgiveness. She is one funny-serious lady, with African drums, rocking bass, gentle guitar and stirring harmonies.

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Scarritt-Bennett Center: Why are you engaged in music and storytelling?

Paula Larke: I live in a constant state of outrage and dismay at the savagery of human beings. I have been told, and have discovered over the decades that my teaching and performances have changed peoples’ lives for the better, so I wholly dedicate my small talents to that end.

SBC: What inspires you about Maya Angelou?

Paula Larke: She overcame being molested as a child to inspire women and girls to be stronger, purer, more intelligent in their choices.

SBC: Why did you create The Caged Bird Sings?

Paula Larke: Learning throughout my life how many women and children have personal stories of molestation, abuse, neglect and other oppressions.

SBC: What are you most excited about for The Caged Bird Sings?

Paula Larke:  The integration of cultures within the African American community, the joining of women’s hands and spirits across the divide of race, economics and religion – to STOP THE VIOLENCE AND MISEDUCATION OF WOMEN

SBC: In your opinion, what women’s issues are most pressing?  

Paula Larke: a.) The acceptance of over-sexualization as a metric for evaluating our worth. b.) The readiness among women to accept vicious competitiveness as a replacement for collaborative brilliance and productivity. c.)The global sex trade industry’s increasingly brutalizing preying upon children and women.

SBC: Where do you see the most hope or progress for women?

Paula Larke:Young girls entering traditionally male fields in science and technology. More women think-tanks comprised of professional scientists, educators, and non-professional single and family-managing women for mutual edification of all and the creation of new and relevant policies impacting women, children, and families. Organizing against the Citizens United standard of political action.

SBC: How will The Caged Bird Sings address women’s issues?

Paula Larke: By finding the feminine in our humanity and bringing all its positive potential into focus through poetry, song, dance and conversation with the audience.

SBC: What can attendees expect to take away and/or experience at The Caged Bird Sings?

Paula Larke: A curiosity about other lifestyles and beliefs existing in the cultures represented in the room and beyond – an ability to laugh at and embrace the differences we tend to allow hatred and resentment to define, and to become endeared to the common positives we embody.

SBC: What else would you like the community to know about The Caged Bird Sings?

Paula Larke: The Caged Bird Sings will be a CELEBRATION OF THE SOLE WARRIORS – recognition of the individuals across the globe who strive continuously to eradicate violence and suppression of the rights of women and children and the need for our voices and collective action in the obliteration of misogynistic practices the world over. We will highlight the beauty and power of faith, humility, and pure-heartedness – through the testimonies of those in the cast and in the audiences.

You don’t want to miss this afternoon of music, drums, dance, and spoken word that will celebrate the life and spirit of Maya Angelou and those worldwide who are working against the oppression of women and girls. Join us on Saturday, February 7th, from 3pm-5:30pm at Scarritt-Bennett Center. Buy your tickets for The Caged Bird Sings today. To learn more and purchase tickets click here.

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Chandra Allen is a native Nashvillian.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in German from Davidson College in North Carolina and a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School.  She is currently an Assistant Director of Education, Programs, and Connections at Scarritt-Bennett Center where she plans programs focused on women’s leadership and women’s empowerment.  Chandra is passionate about creating an authentic environment where women and men gather to explore and awaken the strength of their voices, experiences, and creativity to effect positive change in their communities and for themselves. To contact Chandra: callen@scarrittbennett.org