We See You:
In honor of Women's History Month, we are celebrating extraordinary stories told by extraordinary storytellers. Throughout the entire month of March, in partnership with Cole Haan, we are highlighting four visionary, multimedia artists who have devoted their lives to creating and cultivating community, weaving together past, present and future generations of women through their chosen art forms, while also strengthening our connections to each other and humanity as a whole.
Award Winning Tap Dancer and Choreographer
Ayodele Casel may dance with her feet, but what she says with them is just as important.
As she glides rhythmically across the stage, the award-winning tap dancer invokes the often untold legacies of Black female tap dancers who never had the same opportunity to perform at the White House, Carnegie Hall, and Madison Square Garden.
“I like to think it's doing justice to their erasure,” she says. “I am a conglomerate of all these folks who came before me.”
With only a few clicks of her toes and heels, Ayodele skillfully weaves together rich history and stories with the salsa, jazz, and hip hop sounds that defined her childhood. Her unique approach has earned her a Bessie Award and a spot as one of the New York Times' “biggest breakout stars of 2019.”
Tap dancing has also helped Ayodele find her voice. Raised between The Bronx and Puerto Rico, she finds the art form to be a magical language that needs no translation.
“Tap dancing is not just steps. Tap dancing is not just a series of moves … This is real expression.”
Casel is an alumna of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts and The William Esper Studio. A dance educator for over 25 years, Casel is the co-director of Operation Tap, an online tap dance educational platform, DLNY Tap Dance Project, and serves on the board of the youth arts leadership organization A BroaderWay Foundation.
Writer and Director
Founder of Look What SHE Did!
Julie Hébert is a writer, producer, and director. Though some of her best work may be as a steward of women’s stories, especially the ones we’ve never heard.
Nearly a decade ago, a chance encounter while serving jury duty led Julie to learn about Clara Shortridge Foltz, California’s first female lawyer and one of the early pioneers of the country’s public defender program.
“She’s a phenomenal person who was more or less left out of history,” Julie says. “How many other women are out there?”
And so began a mission to uncover that history. Julie created Look What SHE Did! along with co-founders Jill Klein, Farrel Levy, and Courtney Graham to bring vital stories of extraordinary women to the screen.
More than 100 films later, the organization has turned the camera on other women and given them a chance to uncover the stories of historic female activists, scientists, politicians and more. These films serve to connect women to the past and inspire their futures.
“Look what she did,” Julie says. “And what does that mean for what I can do?”
Poet and Performer
Kinsale Drake is the writer she was looking for when she was a young girl.
The Navajo poet was a voracious reader growing up. She often felt left out of stories but didn’t know where or how to find books from Indigenous authors.
So she began to write instead and she wove stories about herself, her family, and her community into her poetry.
It took her to the stages of Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress and it won her honors as a National Student Poet and a J. Edgar Meeker Prize and Susan O’Connor award winner.
Now Kinsale hopes to create the opportunities that didn’t exist for her.
“Everything I do is for that little girl that I was,” she says.
This April, Kinsale will officially launch the NDN Girls Book Club with goals to encourage young people’s literary creativity, amplify Indigenous authors, and support tribal libraries and bookstores around the country.
She wants others to have the same experience she did when she stumbled upon her first Native writer and her world opened up.
“It changed everything,” Kinsale says. “I want people to know that they can be represented in a book club like that.”
Writer, Director, Producer
Founder of HONEY CHILE
Beyoncé, Angela Bassett, and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
Ask Felicia Pride what these powerhouse stars have in common and she'll tell you: Black women over the age of 40 are having a renaissance. Not just in front of the camera, but behind it too.
She knows because she's the founder of HONEY CHILE, a production company that creates content for and by Black women over 40 years old or “Honeys.”
When she was just 35, Felicia arrived in Los Angeles with only a screenplay in hand. Now, the award winning filmmaker, writer on television favorites “Grey's Anatomy” and “Queen Sugar”, and writer and executive producer of Really Love on Netflix is ready for a new challenge. She realized Hollywood wasn’t tapping into a community with incredible talent and influence and decided it was time to take the lead.
Felicia has brought a slate of film, television, and audio projects to life all while building opportunities for Honey creators across the industry.
HONEY CHILE's mission is to free Black women by telling stories where their humanity, complicated beauty, and diverse perspectives can be fully realized.
“There's absolutely freedom in storytelling,” Felicia says. “There's freedom in embracing our stories.”