“I don’t need nobody wanna get something and leave me standing in my door” -Dussie Mae
For 48 pages, we wait for her entrance. She is not in the room, but oh is she in that room. Her reputation precedes her and when Ma Rainey ( played like a tornado by TaRon Patton) finally does walk on that stage, you better move outta the way!
photo credit: Kamal A. Bolden
Ma Rainey is very much a boss, but her gender might lead others to call her that other b**** word. Unlike some of the other women in Wilson’s canon, Ma does not need to ask a man “how much woman” she is or how much she’s worth. She knows it all too well.
As an artist, I’ve undersold myself many times. I’ve questioned if I’m really worth what I’m charging. I believe I’m talented, but am I talented enough to demand that price. Will they laugh at me thinking I’m charging too much? Then, after setting a price, I feel timid about asking for a payment that’s due to me when it hasn’t arrived on time. What will they think of me? Am I being too demanding? Should I just wait another month to see if they’ll remember to pay me what they said they would pay me for the services already provided? Typing this now, it seems a bit crazy. Why would I be afraid of asking for something that I’m already owed. I’ve accepted “exposure” as a form of payment knowing mamn well that exposure won’t keep their lights on nor mine.
Don’t even get me started on how men are demanding and receiving more for their services and asking for it without blinking an eye. Acknowledging and accepting my worth and value is still a skill that I’m working to perfect, but I have stopped apologizing.
“I lets them know it, though. Ma don’t stand for no … Wanna take my voice and trap it in them fancy boxes with all them buttons and dials . . . and then too cheap to buy me a Coca-Cola. And it don’t cost but a nickel a bottle. They don’t care nothing about me. All they want is my voice. Well, I done learned that, and they gonna treat me like I want to be treated”… Ma Rainey
My voice, talents and time are valuable and so are yours! The next time someone tries to get something for nothing just think WWMD? What Would Ma Do? She would get what’s due!
Have you ever sold yourself short and charged less than you were worth? How’d you finally stand up for yourself and get what you deserve?
TCC, little AAA and I at the Ma Rainey concert reading!