‘Black Latina the Play’ explores themes of race and inclusion

Crystal Roman

“Black Latina the Play,” a powerful composition written, directed and performed by Crystal Roman, CEO and founder of the Black Latina Movement, will be presented at the Hope Theatre on Friday, Oct. 19, at 7:30 p.m.

In a perfect world, stereotypes surrounding skin color or accent would not exist; there would be no outsiders. But until then, it is up to people like Roman to inspire others to embrace and accept who they are. 

“We want to get the message out that if you’re not accepted in society you don’t have to be a black Latina like me; you can be white, you can be Asian, you can be big, you can be small, even people of different sizes can understand what that’s like,” Roman said. “The play is for anyone who doesn’t fit into the box that society drags you into.”

While working as an actor in New York, Roman becoming increasingly frustrated at being typecast because of her appearance — she is of African descent and Latina.

“I didn’t like the roles that were available for women of color,” she said. “If there was a Latin role it was always hypersexualized; if it was a black role it was very angry all the time.”

Roman decided to write down her feelings, which became the foundation of “Black Latina the Play,” in which she shares her personal struggle with being both black and Hispanic. Through a monologue of five diverse characters, each representing a different emotion — fear, anger, sadness, love and power — the audience is taken on a thought-provoking journey that touches on broader themes of traditional black/white racism in the United States as well as internalized racism that often occurs among African-Americans, Hispanics and black Latinos.

On tour since 2013 at college campuses around the country, the play is also performed by a three-woman ensemble, depending on the venue, but Roman’s presentation at UO will be the solo version.

“When I do the solo show it can be exhausting because it is an emotional piece,” she said, “but I love the message; I love to perform it.”

The UO-Latinx Strategies Group, UO Black Strategies Group, and UO Department of Theatre Arts joined to bring Roman to campus for the play. Co-sponsors of the event include the Center for Student Involvement: Intersectional Events and the Department of Ethnic Studies.

An open discussion will immediately follow the presentation where Roman said she hopes people will not be afraid to engage and ask tough questions.

“We don’t interact with each other the way we want to because there’s this worry about saying something the wrong way, or ‘I don’t want to offend this person or say something that’s weird or make them uncomfortable,’” she said. “I think that we have to break down those barriers and not be so hypersensitive. The more we work together and encourage each other, the bigger the difference we make can be.”

Roman also will participate in two on-campus workshops offered by CSI-Intersectional Events: Black Latinidad in the U.S.A will take place Thursday, Oct. 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Erb Memorial Union’s Crater Lake North room. Beauty: Double standards, Appropriation and Reclamation will take place Friday, Oct. 19, at 2:30 p.m. at the Mills International Center in the EMU.

All three events are free and open to the public.

—By Sharleen Nelson, University Communications