School of Social Work hosts one-woman show to explore complexities of racial identity
On Feb. 15, the Wayne State School of Social Work brought to the Community Arts Auditorium “One Drop Of Love,” the multimedia one-woman show by Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni exploring the intersections of race, class and gender.
An award-winning actor, producer and educator, Cox DiGiovanni used filmed images, photographs, and animation to describe her lifelong search for roots, identity, and justice. Chronicling the evolution of the U.S. Census’ racial categories, her parents’ interracial marriage, her political and social activism, and her experiences in Africa with the Peace Corps, Cox DiGiovanni explained how her racial identity has simultaneously been determined for her and subject to her own interpretation.
Cox DiGiovanni sits on the board of MixedRootsStories.org and has been featured in the New York Times and on NPR as a spokesperson on using the arts to explore racial identity. “One Drop Of Love” was presented as the School of Social Work’s 11th Annual Diversity event, during which Cox DiGiovanni explored the interplay between historical and personal trauma on her journey of self-discovery.
The daughter of a Jamaican father and a mother of Danish, Blackfoot and Cherokee ancestry, Cox DiGiovanni challenged the audience to contemplate the United States’ centuries-old “one-drop” rule of racial classification, which stated any individual with one drop of African American ancestral blood was considered African American. Cox DiGiovanni showed its role in the empowerment and disenfranchisement of generations of Americans. At the same time, her perspectives on race have been shaped by highly personal experiences such as her parents’ divorce, her brother’s brutalization by police, and her father’s failure to attend her wedding to a white man. A major theme of “One Drop Of Love” is the complexity and subjectivity of identity, and despite increased understanding and awareness, Cox DiGiovanni conceded that her personal journey is not over.
“I am a culturally mixed woman, searching for racial answers,” she concluded. “And I’m going to keep on searching, no matter how scary the questions and answers may get.”