In celebration of Black History Month, Women of Color on Broadway, Inc. (WOCoB) premiered their music video of Porgy and Bess’ “Summertime” on Playbill.com February 1 to honor the legacy of soprano Anne Brown, the original Bess.
Directed by Alexia Sielo, who co-founded WOCoB along with her sister Victoria Velazquez, the music video is an “interpretation of the classic lullaby through a fusion of opera, jazz, and spoken word, incorporating a dance montage reflecting the interdependent mother-daughter relationship that is the backbone of African-American culture.”
For the makeup looks seen in the music video, WOCoB teamed up with MAC Cosmetics, using Studio Fix Powder and Foundation, Studio Fix Fluid, and Prep + Prime Fix+ as key products.
Watch the exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary for an in-depth look at the music video’s creative process above. The music video features Ayanna Fowler, Barbara Douglas, JoVonna Parks, Krystina Burton, Peyton Innocent, and Samara Joy McLendon. These cast members shared their artistic inspirations, moments of empowerment, and what the classic lullaby means to them. Read their answers below.
What does the song "Summertime" mean to you?
Krystina Burton: To me, “Summertime” means hope. The lyrics let you know that things are calm and without turmoil while also letting you know that one day you will burst out of this existence and create your own way of life. Therein lies the hope for me. It speaks to strong roots that give you the confidence and impetus to create your own path and succeed. It doesn’t guarantee a path of ease necessarily but most certainly validates the support system and safety net that will always remain.
Barbara Douglas: “Summertime” is a very special song to me. It’s a song than has been in my children’s lives since the day they were born. Their father, a classical singer, would play his Porgy and Bess DVD over and over in our house. Once I saw the beautiful “Summertime” lullaby scene, I would carry my girls in my arms around my house singing the song to them. They seem to really enjoy the high B flat at the end! That’s why I really enjoy this production of “Summertime.” It’s something mothers and daughters can share forever!
Ayanna Fowler: The song "summertime” is a reflection of the conversations that so many Black women have with their daughters as they prepare them for the world that awaits their arrival. It reminds young queens that throughout their lifetime they will be faced with unique challenges and the only way to overcome these obstacles is to remember the words that our mothers instill in us at a such a young age. There is no advice quite like the Black mother’s. She will spend her days reminding you of things that you may not understand for years to come, but on those days that you are challenged, her words will wrap themselves around you like a shawl that falls into a quilt. Then you will understand. This world needs us.
Peyton Innocent: The song “Summertime” for me means to not worry and that everything will be okay, no matter what happens.
Samara Joy McLendon: The song "Summertime" resonates with me because it has been interpreted by so many of my favorite singers and still sounds new every time I hear it, which makes it that much more inspiring and challenging to sing the song from my own perspective. The melody is as soothing as a lullaby yet the lyrics provoke thoughts of a deeper meaning.
JoVonna Parks: I have always loved the song “Summertime.” The first time I heard it I was in high school and ever since then it has also been a song of comfort.
Who is a Black female artistic pioneer who inspires you?
Burton: A Black female artistic pioneer who inspires me is Debbie Allen. She has done so much for the not only Black women in the community but the entertainment community as a whole. She is a true embodiment of perseverance and confidence. The way she has moved through her career, obstacles became merely puzzles to be solved. If there wasn’t a way she created one and had people following in hot pursuit; what she was a part of became where people wanted to be and what people wanted to see. That power and that conviction constantly leaves me in awe.
Douglas: Aretha Franklin. Like me, she was a church singer trying to break into the commercial world of music. In doing so, she brought a new sound that artists today still try to emulate.
Fowler: I always have troubling answering this question. I would like to say "every single Black female artist who has shared her light with the world has inspired me". Even the women that I don't know. As a young student I would read Ms. Maya Angelou's work and think to myself, "Wow, I want to write just like this when I grow up". Now I find myself reading some of my work and thinking, "Wow, how did I just write that?" She says, "And still, like dust, I'll rise," in her 1978 third volume of poetry. I will never forget the first time that I read this poem and immediately knew that I would master the skill of resiliency—that I would rise above anything.
Innocent: Misty Copeland! She’s a dancer who was the first Black female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. She’s a really great dancer and I hope I can meet her one day!
McClendon: Cicely Tyson. Her longevity, tenacity, and artistry will forever inspire me to be the best version of me I can be at every stage of my life.
Parks: I suppose I am inspired by them all in some way. I love Cicley Tyson because she is one of the most amazing storytellers! Eartha Kitt is also an inspiration—she has such a commanding presence, a huge personality, and also has a commanding presence. I would have loved to meet them and could probably listen to them talk all day about anything.
When do you feel most empowered?
Burton: I feel most empowered on the stage. The stage is where I feel I can be my truest self and share that with others. One of my best friends always says “nothing to prove, only to share” and on the stage is where that really comes to life for me. On the stage, I take on the great responsibility of storytelling and creating memories for the audience that can potentially last a lifetime. I don’t take that power and influence lightly, and as a result I call on myself to be nothing but the best so that the work may speak through me and transcend beyond merely one night.
Douglas: I feel most empowered when I can actually see the positive effects my music has on my listeners. This is one of the most important things I miss from performing live.
Fowler: I am most empowered when I am given the opportunity to educate my people. As a Hampton University Alumna, a graduate student studying clinical mental health and rehabilitation, an artist, poet, and most importantly as a Black girl, I am honored to able to articulate all that I know. I believe in collective growth. I understand systemic oppression. I am aware of educational disadvantages. I am conscious of the global pandemic and most importantly, I will not be silenced. I am content with the idea that I will never suppress my knowledge. I vow to always educate myself and those around me.
Innocent: I feel most empowered when I am dancing. When I dance, I am in control, I feel powerful, and it makes me really happy!
McClendon: I feel most empowered when I talk to my best friend, when I spend my mornings with God, and when I stand up on stage with the band behind me, count off the first tune, and sing the night away.
Parks: I feel empowered the most whenever I am creating art, teaching, or giving back. However, when I am in the presence of Black artists in particular, I am most empowered. There is a completely different feeling when one is surrounded by their own people.