HAMPTON ROADS, VA — Stage productions have the ability to reach out, grab your heart, and deeply move audiences. Malikah R. Harris found that out in 2012 when she brought her production “Blood Sisters: The Musical” to the Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival, and won rave reviews.
Today, Harris, who lives in Virginia, has created a different format for “Blood Sisters,” the story about a typical American single parent family where Joanna Karen Smith — or simply “Momma” — has relied on her deep sense of faith as she raised her children. Now, after more than 32 years of self-sacrifice, Momma is fed up and is giving her grown daughters 5 months to put their lives together.
Harris has taken the story, and put it into novel form. For audiences who did not see the theatrical version of “Blood Sisters,” they can visit Amazon and get the book, and follow the story of Momma and her daughters there.
But Harris is going beyond simply listing the book, titled “Generational Curses,” and encouraging the play’s fans to check it out. Just as Momma was a woman who placed a great emphasis on her personal faith and relationship to God, Harris has as well.
“I want to be a blessing to people,” she said.
That’s why Harris has taken on a new task: to distribute her book among as many of the nation’s jails and prisons as possible. She believes that by reading the story of Momma and the challenges she faced as a single mother raising her daughters, it can touch the lives of inmates and perhaps help spark a revival of faith in them as well.
“This has always been about giving back to the community,” she said. “This is something God put into my heart to do. This book has blessed so many people and changed lives.”
“Generational Curses” will be distributed in bulk to inmates, starting at the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia.
The “Blood Sisters” story was set in a fictional “Metro City U.S.A.,” where the five Smith sisters are living together under the same roof with Momma. Finally, Momma decides that after all those years of sacrifice for her kids, she needs her “private time,” and the girls are given five months to get jobs and move out. Then a tragedy occurs, and the story moves in a different direction – one that has a lot to do with family, faith and forgiveness.
The musical written by Harris continues to tour and get performed at community theaters through her Mother Earth Productions.
“Generational Curses,” which was published on April 20, is set in a fictional town called New Metro, and follows the story of Joanna Karen Smith, who tried to raise her five daughters without the influence of their fathers. Joanna a victim of rape and abuse as a young child, but managed to overcome a lot of obstacles in life. That is, until she receives a package from her late grandmother, which suddenly leaves her wondering who her real father is.
Harris said she could see how the play was impacting and deeply moving audiences, and decided the story needed to be put in a novel form as well. (She worked on the book with editor Patricia Concodora, saying “If it wasn’t for her this novel would not even be out.”)
“This is a fictitious book, but their situation is so real and people can relate to it,” Harris said. “There is a message behind it. It’s also about forgiveness and learning how to forgive. There is a light that shines and helps you get through it.”
Harris could see the emotional reaction it had on stage audiences.
“So many people have been blessed by it,” she said. “These are the things God has incorporated through change.”
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..