For Women’s History Month I will be sharing the stories that define and provide examples of women empowerment, uplifting stories of personal triumph and businesses that are inspiring and are making a difference for women. Women’s History Month is a declared month each year that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society.
I want to introduce you to Reenah Golden, Founder & CEO/Artistic Director of Avenue Blackbox Theatre.
Reenah Golden is an award-winning writer, performance artist, social activist and educator. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Avenue Blackbox Theatre in Rochester, NY, where she is working with the community to transform an art-deserted quadrant with collaborative, multidisciplinary, socially-conscious arts programming. For nearly 20 years Reenah has been using the stage to educate, affect social change and create new ways of thinking. As a professional actor, Reenah toured in the one-woman show, No Child…By Nilaja Sun about arts-in-education at Geva Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, Indiana University NW Theatre on Grand and various universities from 2009 – 2016. In 2014, she presented a collaborative work entitled, To Mothers of Sons for TedX Flour City that can be found on YouTube.
Here is HERstory:
I am a Gen X Rochesterian, born at Rochester General Hospital but was blessed to experience all of the types of Rochester living. I’ve lived on the Westside and Eastside, and currently live in the 19th ward but have a business on the Eastside. I’ve lived in the suburbs Churchville-Chili and Irondequoit. And, I’m also a country girl; I grew up spending much of my school breaks and holidays at my grandparents in Wayne county. I was a tomboy and they owned a beautiful ranch home where my brother, cousins and I explored nature and ran wild. Though I started high school enrolled at Wilson High I ultimately went to Churchville-Chili for two years and Franklin High for the last two where I was class VP and graduated 3rd in my class. After high school I went to the US Army Reserves and ended up serving active duty in support of Operation Desert Storm. I guess this is where I both found out how disciplined I can be and discovered that I really am a free-spirit who loves to create my own boundaries. “Discipline is freedom” is a quote from one of my performing arts entrepreneurial heroes (Garth Fagan) and I truly live by that philosophy.
Her business is The Avenue Blackbox Theatre is an inclusive, fully accessible, safe, bold and Queer space where social justice and art disciplines converge to create dynamic stage productions, installations and live art-making events.
What does women empowerment mean to you?
To me, woman empowerment is about recognizing and honoring all types of womanhood as a testament the brilliance and resilience of women! Though “womb” is embedded in the word and is a source of much of some women’s strength, some women don’t have a womb and that does not make them any less powerful. I often use the alternative spelling “womxn” to remind us of that. I’m here for woman empowerment that is inclusive, sensitive, understanding and bold!
What advice or words of inspiration would you like to share with someone?
Let your passion be your path! We all have something that we are passionate about and we are most inspired and inspiring when living in our truth!
What do you want your legacy to be?
I want my legacy to be that I lived authentically, boldly in my truth but with care and compassion for my community’s most vulnerable members, and that inspired others to do the same!
What inspires you?
I am inspired by creativity and truth. I believe both are always accessible and will get you out of almost any funk or moment of doubt or despair.
What kind of impact do you want to have on those around you?
I hope that my impact on others and my community includes safety, wellness, creativity and also inspiring people to stand powerfully in their truth. I want people to feel like they can do anything when they step into The Avenue or spaces that I create.
Have you authored any books?
Yes. Revelations from the Single Mama Tribe & All Me both books of poetry. I have also contributed poems and chapters to on my work in arts education to some academic texts. I have authored and adapted plays including; Black Coffee; The Poets’ Cafe, Mother to Sun, and Office Politics.
What does self care mean to you?
Self-care is about listening to your body and spirit and honoring it’s needs over your ego. Your ego wants to always concern you with how others see you vs what you truly want or need. Self-care means turning off the ego voice and listening to the truest voice inside that says, “you matter”.
What obstacles have you overcome or hurdles did you personally face and how did you overcome them?
I guess I would say that I have overcome many of the sadly traditional hurtles of being a Black womxn in America. I’ve only barely escaped a life of poverty, domestic violence, the pain of losing your child to the streets or police brutality though all of those things have touched me at different times in my personal life. I am a survivor of sexual abuse and someone who has struggled with anxiety, courage and trust issues as a result. Yoga, meditation and therapy has helped me address many of my issues but is my commitment to both self-work and healing with others that has helped tremendously. It’s not a one and done thing. I have big dreams so I still struggle with overcoming obstacles every day. Expressing gratitude for life and what I have been able to accomplish on my own and with the loving support of family and chosen family keeps me going. We press on!
Why did you choose entrepreneurship?
I chose entrepreneurship to support my desire to be more involved with creating change in my community starting with the school system my child was in. Stepping into the classroom when we entered the public school system, I remember thinking “this place needs a lot of help if its going to be right for my child and it’s going to take time and dedication.” I knew that an employer of a white-led company filled with privileged suburbanites wouldn’t understand what that meant. I didn’t want to try to fit what was important to me, my household and my community into the crevices while I worked my butt off for someone else. I also didn’t feel like the corporate world deserved me, to be honest. Corporate American doesn’t seem like it will ever be truly interested in equity and righting the wrongs of racism, sexism and all the other isms and oppressive practices it’s built on. So I’d rather spend my time, energy and talent impacting change that I can see and feel.
What’s next for you in your business/brand? What can readers look forward to from you?
We just launched a social justice message brand, BLACK. This is a line of apparel and accessories with a simple but powerful message that celebrates our Blackness in all the packages it comes in whether that be militant, unapologetic, Queer, gender-nonconforming, soft, fragile, bold, spiritual, disabled — whatever! We are BLACK.