I Am Queen: Charlotte • Belk Theater at Blumenthal Performing Arts Center

Blog by Angela Lindsay

What does it mean to be a Queen?
The answer goes far beyond wearing a crown or lavish clothing. In fact, some of the most royal women we encounter throughout our lives comes to us humbly, gently and without fanfare, lodged in the quiet reflections of our shared experiences. Some arrive in the form of family ties with our mothers, cool aunties, and “big mamas” being chief among them. Others bless our lives by way of community—that lady down the street whose door was always open to neighborhood kids; the First Lady at church who always had an inspirational word; or that teacher who told you that you could be anything. 

So, what does it mean to be a Queen? Answers to this question were reflected in the stage production of “I Am Queen: Charlotte” last night at Blumenthal Theater in front of an enthusiastic crowd comprised of a healthy mix of race, age and gender—some clad in richly colored African garb, others in suits and church clothes. Attendees were welcomed into the theater by a soundtrack featuring soulful songstresses such as India.Arie, Solange Knowles, Corinne Bailey Rae, and “Queen Bey” herself, Beyoncé.

“I Am Queen: Charlotte”, produced by a team of all black women, save one, showcased black women actresses who brought to life uplifting stories of real black women from within the Charlotte community who were chosen by the public to be a part of the Spring 2024 Class of Queens. These inspiring women demonstrate qualities that add value to the local community, their families and their own lives. This specially curated collection of stories sprang from a fountain of diverse lives including that of a ballet dancer to a musical director to a judge.

Against a backdrop of gloriously gospel-tinged music performed by a veiled, salmon pink clad trio called The Muses, these stories burst to life in a spoken word/monologue type format of storytelling on a stage displaying a patchwork of brown and tan fabric in the shape of trees flanking the sides with a stretch of greenery across the floor in the front. Eight wicker chairs, akin to thrones, housed the bodies of the actresses, all in velvet burgundy dresses, as they waited their turns to portray each Queen in the 2024 class. A generation of Young Queens in pink jumpsuits and tiaras made of flowers, also contributed their speech and dance moves to the show, representing the future of black female greatness. The show began with an invocation by The Muses and a salute to Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg Strelitz, the city’s namesake. Then, the 2024 Class of Queens slowly strutted down the left aisle in cocktail dresses and ball gowns (some with crowns) as their names were read. “We share the stories of some as a means to celebrate the stories of all,” the announcer repeatedly stated.

The performance was broken down into 10 short segments with titles like: Matters of the Heart, Ready/Westside Story, and 43 Acres which creatively correlated to the stories of the honorees. It was a sprawling exploration of joys and pains, scars and strengths, lessons and life-journeys through tales of heartbreak, laughter, public shame, abandonment, deaths, health scares, tears and triumphs via thought-provoking dialogue that encouraged the audience to look inward and consider the qualities that make us all uniquely royal to the people and in the places that we touch every day. Considering the chorus of “amens”, “go girls”, and empathetic grunts and groans at particularly touching moments, the purpose of the program landed squarely.We all have Queens in our own lives. I think about Queens like my great grandmother who taught my mom to bake and my mom who, in turn, taught me. It’s how we satisfied our sweet tooths, expressed our love, and even made our money on the side. I think about Queens like Pride Communications CEO Dee Dixon who has graciously allowed me to explore and share my passion for writing, using Pride Magazine as a vehicle, for the past 15 years. Their crowns, invisible. Their impact, palpable. 

Pride Awards 2024 – The Revelry

What does it mean to be a Queen? The answer may differ for all of us, but it can be drawn from similar origins—in our hearts, our individual and collective experiences, and throughout the royal court that is our faith, family, and friends. 

Spring 2024 Class of QueensD’Asia Feaster – “A West-Side Queen”Dr. Nikki Jones-Bailey – “A Legacy Building Queen”Melody Gross – “A Free Queen”Dr. Janaka Lewis – “A Literary Queen”Shante Burke-Hayer – “A Purpose-Full Queen”Ayisha McMillan Cravotta – “A Queen Holding Memories”Nakia Savage – “A Luxurious Queen”Tyyawdi Hands – “An Honorable Queen”Deborah Phillips – “A Healed Queen”Rubie Britt-Height – “A Community Queen”Tina Marshall – “A Human Queen”Valeria Washington – “A Sisterhood Queen”Bilqis Shareef  – “A Designing Queen”A. Fay Jones – “A Queen Mother”Francetta Farrer – “A Storytelling Queen”Yvonne Streater-Bittle – “An Organizing Queen”Paula Cook – “A Trustworthy Queen”Keva Womble – “A Queen at Home”Kim Delaney – “An Enterprising Queen”Felicia Parker – “A Genuine Queen