Please join us as Roosevelt House presents Shirley Chisholm: Unbossed & Unbowed, a solo show from writer-actor Ingrid Griffith about the iconic political leader who became the first African American woman in Congress, and the first woman and African American to seek a major party nomination for president. Some called her “the Black Joan of Arc,” but the Brooklyn-born daughter of Caribbean parents called herself “Fighting Shirley”—as she faced off against a political machine mired in prejudice, and established herself as one of the most important trailblazing visionaries of her time. Following the performance, Griffith will be joined in conversation by Director of the Roosevelt House Public Policy Program Basil Smikle.

Entertaining and educational, thoroughly researched and passionately performed, this abridged version of Unbossed and Unbowed brings to the “stage” for the first time the extraordinary life of Shirley St. Hill Chisholm. Beginning with her return to the United States at the age of 10, following an early childhood spent in Barbados with her grandmother, the show illuminates a crucially formative time for Chisholm’s Caribbean heritage and identity. In doing so, the performance examines how race and gender shaped the trajectory of her life, and why, as a young woman, she chose to dedicate herself to fighting for the unrepresented and disenfranchised.

Through Griffith’s uncanny and powerful portrayals—not just of Chisholm herself but of several important members of her inner circle—Unbossed and Unbowed brings to life Chisholm’s journey through the economic upheavals of the Depression, through the political and social unrest of the 1960s and the Civil Rights era, to her groundbreaking political ambition and historic success.

As Ingrid Griffith says, Unbossed & Unbowed “hopes to inspire the disenfranchised and to connect to those who benefit from the status quo, helping them to examine the flaws in our system and reconsider what’s best for humankind… in the hope that more people will become aware of [Chisholm’s] contributions and appreciate how her voice resonates today.”

Ingrid Griffith is a writer and actor who has appeared off-Broadway in productions of Susanna Centlivre’s The Basset Table, John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt, Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues,  Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angeles, Lynn Nottage’s Ruined, and, as the lead, Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler. Her previous solo show, Demerara Gold, about a Guyanese girl’s immigrant experience, toured internationally and received widespread acclaim. Her awards and honors include a 2023 Suzi Bass Award for Outstanding Social Justice Production, the 2023 Guyana Cultural Association Award, and the Danny Glover Power of Dream Award.

Basil A. Smikle Jr. is a Distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Public Policy Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. Previously, he was appointed by former Governor David Paterson to serve as the Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential cycle where he was the “second highest ranking Democrat” in the State. He holds a PhD in Politics and Education and an MPA from Columbia University and received a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. He is a frequent on-screen public affairs commentator for CNN and MSNBC.

Shirley Chisholm: Unbossed & Unbowed created and performed by Ingrid Griffith | Posted on February 14th, 2024 | Public Programs