Slide courtesy of Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc.
Photo: Marty Heitner

Afrofem (1995)

Tracie Morris’s Afrofem (1995) critiques stereotypical representations of black women in the media. In this work-in-progress performance, Morris portrays the multifaceted character Deetra, who embodies different black women archetypes—the gangsta bitch, the little hottie, the creole mama, the mammy, and the welfare queen. She performs spoken word poetry to jazz-funk music and forms a bond of sisterhood with the character played by Suzanne Y. Jones. Throughout, Morris draws from elements of B-girl culture and Blaxploitation film—a genre that emerged in the early 1970s starring black male and female characters, which was later criticized for portraying black people in negative stereotypical ways. She attempts to reverse such representations of black women by refusing to conform to respectability politics. In doing so, Morris becomes emblematic of black female empowerment while shattering racist stereotypes perpetuated by white supremacy in America.

TRACIE MORRIS is Coordinator of the Performance and Performance Studies MFA program at Pratt Institute. Morris is a poet who also works as a scholar, writer, vocalist, bandleader, and performer. Her sound installations have been presented at the Museum of Modern Art, The Kitchen, Whitney Museum of American Art, Drawing Center, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, and Dia Art Foundation. Morris has received grants, awards, and fellowships for poetry and performance from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Asian Cultural Council, Franklin Furnace, and Creative Capital. Her publications include Intermission (1998), Rhyme Scheme (2012), handholding: 5 kinds (2016), and Best American Experimental Writing (2017). Morris holds a MFA in Poetry from Hunter College and a PhD in Performance Studies from New York University.