MONOLOGUE: excerpt from She Who Struggles

by LaTonia Phipps

Setting:       JoAnne’s bedroom in Harlem, NY   

Time:           present

Character:   RITA, a White woman, 18, new to this
                   otherwise Black neighborhood.

RITA stands with a slice of red velvet cake.  She talks to JoAnne, a black teen. 



I have just as much right to live on this block as anyone else.  I’m sorry to disappoint you but me and mother, we don’t have any hidden agendas.  You want to know why we’re here.  You want to know my story.  Well here goes, housewife and straight-A student, valedictorian, endures over fifteen years of physical, verbal, and mental abuse; a drug-addled and alcohol-addicted Chief of The Police Department—Husband, Father, and Protector, the cause.  Complaint after complaint, medical records of broken ribs and black eyes go missing and unnoticed.  Why?  Because a badge and a quick phone call makes all that shit just disappear like it never happened.  Even if the wounds are so visible a blind man could see.  Then we get the shit kicked out of us again for being “whinny little bitches and making Chief Donald Daddy look like he can’t handle his woman.”  It is my last year of high school, thought it would all stop once I moved out and gone off to college.  Thought maybe I’d lighten the load.  Graduation day came and I’d been working on this stupid salutation for weeks to the graduating class.  Had all of this insightful mumbo jumbo about going off and becoming a pillar in the world.  I dedicated my entire speech to Mother but when I looked down her seat was empty.  After I’d finished, I accepted my diploma and some plaque with my name in gold print.  I had strangers telling me how proud they were and that they were sorry my parents couldn’t be there.  I came rushing home with tears streaming down my face; panting and sweating like a stray dog foaming with anger.  I opened the door to my house and in plain sight… a .45 caliber pointed straight at Mothers’ head.  Bottle of Jack in his left hand, gun in his right, middle finger slipping off and on the trigger…


That’s when it was over.  We waited until he drifted off into his drunken stupor, which wasn’t long, grabbed everything we could carry and left.  Mother behind the wheel… never looked back.  That was about a week ago.  Seemed like we were on the road for days before she remembered she had a former college friend who lived in Harlem.  Apparently they’d been really close and had lost touch over the years.  And I guess it was faith, because her friend had just gotten a job out of state and was looking for someone to sublease her place.  “It’s small and only has one bedroom,” she said, but we didn’t care something was better than…  Anyway, after that, I promised myself I’d never let anyone treat us that way again.  And to never let anyone chase us out of our home either.  So no, JoAnne we won’t leave.

(Rita places cake down on the nightstand and exits.)

copyright © 2010 LaTonia Phipps. All rights reserved.

LaTonia Phipps is an actress, spoken word poet, and playwright. Her plays include Fishing in Brooklyn, a 60-minute Spoken-Word Choreopoem,  presented at The Wow Theater and GLBT Center; and  She Who Struggles, a full-length play that re-imagines a young Assasta Shakur in modern day gentrified Harlem, New York City, and in love with a white woman.

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