In celebration of Black History Month, LaDuca is honored to spotlight eight inspiring performers who not only exude Black Excellence on Broadway, but who are also an integral part of modern Black History themselves.
“Toni Morrison’s ‘The function of freedom is to free someone else.’ — being the ‘token’ in most shows I’ve been in, I’ve often thought, if even one little Black kid can see me up there, I hope they can imagine themselves up there.”
~ Shina Ann Morris
Shina Ann Morris grew up in Wichita, Kansas where she did theater at Music Theatre for Young People, Wichita Children’s Theatre, and at East High School. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Shina made her Broadway debut in the 2009 revival of West Side Story. She went on to perform in seven Broadway shows: Anything Goes, Nice Work If You Can Get It, Annie, Cinderella, Holiday Inn, Anastasia, and Tootsie. In 2017, Shina was Anastasia’s Legacy Robe Recipient: “Being presented with the robe is so special, especially when you look up to previous recipients so much. To have it be presented to me is sort of unbelievable. I feel like Diana in A Chorus Line, thinking: ‘I’ll never be that old’… I’ll never be in that many shows to receive the robe. I feel so honored, and feel so much love!”
Shina Ann Morris on what Black History Month means to her:
To me, BHM is about being represented, about hearing our stories. So much of our history has been white washed, so my wish is that more and more Black stories are shared BY Black people. That we’re given a voice, not just about the suffering, not just about being the “First” of color to have done something, but triumphs and successes no matter what. Black History Month to me means learning about Black history FROM Black people, and celebrating that history, their stories, and their LIVES.
“It is not so much a Negro History [Month] as it is a History [Month]. We should emphasize not Negro History, but the Negro in history… The case of the Negro is well taken care of when it is shown how he has influenced the development of civilization.” – Carter G. Woodson, the Father of BHM
As far as being in show business:
I guess I’ve always had this thought, “Did I book this or this because of my abilities, or simply because I filled a ‘quota’ of diversity?”
So many stories aren’t shared commercially because they have Black creators…How many stories would you have heard if Broadway opened their minds to letting Black people tell their own stories?—Stories not just of being enslaved, oppressed, discriminated against…but stories about simply being.
I’ve also been told I don’t “sound black”…and who gets to decide that? That is something that is constantly in my mind when auditioning. I still struggle accepting that I am who I am, and I will not conform to the idea that my Blackness is up for debate.
I’d want people to know we are not a monolith. I “sound Black” because I am Black. I “dance Black” because I am Black and am dancing. The stereotype that a Black person must sound a certain way is harmful and incorrect.