September 2012 Profile: Barbea Williams

NAME:  Barbea Williams

AGE:  60


RESIDENCE:  Tucson, Arizona

CHILDREN’S NAMES/AGES:  Beah Williams – 30;  Beyah Rasool – 24.

PROFESSION: Barbea Williams is a performing and visual artist currently featured in the latest regional production of Motherhood Out Loud.  Motherhood Out Loud had a successful Off Broadway run at Primary Stages in NYC and is poised to tour worldwide. It is playing at the Invisible Theatre Company in Tucson, Arizona from September 5 – 23, 2012.  The show, written by noted playwrights and authors, shares with humor, candor, poignancy, and insight about the many facets of parenting and the often challenging, but rewarding road to get there.  

Q:You became a mom both earlier and later in life.  Why did you decide to become a mom later in life?

A:I felt at the time that I had a supportive partner, and I was excited to be pregnant with my second child and because I believe in a family unit. Nine months of pregnancy really gave me time to think about what I wanted my body to look like as an elder woman. And almost immediately, I understood some of my own mother’s questions and answers dealing with motherhood.

Q: What do you most love about your work?

A: As a Performing and Visual Artist I can problem solve, expose and educate the masses in a way that illustrates “I believe in myself,” “I’m a knowledgeable person,” on and on…. Which translates as “I can kick butt,” which is empowering as a woman.

Q: What is most challenging about it?

A: My approach to my art involves research and study, along with technical aspects, and today’s society seems immersed in commercialism. I’m doing it 40 years.

Q: What do your kids think of your work?  

A: They understand the importance of it, even though they have their own lives. And both have been involved as artists themselves.

Q: Any new projects ahead you’d like to share with us? 

A: I’m working on a series called “Behind and Beyond – The Door of No Return” which introduces folklore, symbolism and dance from Africa and the African Diaspora.

Q: What have you experienced through motherhood that has helped in your work or personal life?  

A: Because I was a later mother with my second child, and most of my friends were grandparents, the majority of my children’s playmates were younger than I…some as much as 12 to 14 years.  This forced me, in a good way, to get in touch with a new generation of parenting, and it helped me because I work in the schools and at a dance studio with young parents; smart, intelligent, nonetheless young to experience and wisdom. I know because, I’ve been there myself.

For me, it has helped create a bond with them and their children because they see me as “parent-like” and also someone who has integrity and additional life’s experiences and a worldview.

Q: What do you see as the positives and challenges of becoming a 35+ mom? 

A: I loved to go out and party as a young adult (I’ve always enjoyed dance on all levels – social and fine arts), so by the time I had my second child, I found a new hang out that was even more rewarding…Baby Dance, Play Dance, and Cultural Exposure with my own children.

Q: Does being a mom give you new material for your performances? 

A: I’m sure it did, yet being a “Nana” really has.  My grandson loves to build airplanes, read, outdoors, and of course play video games, and he gives me an enormous amount of insider information on the world of today’s youths, for my choreography, scripts and face painting projects.

Q: What is a typical day for you like?  

A: The consistent typical day is dropping my grandson off to school, feeding my dogs and turtle, and tending my garden. I regularly share the experience of dance/art with three years olds, seniors and everyone in-between; attend a meeting, rehearsal, and organizing/visualizing for the next performance.

Q: Do you do any work from home? 

A: Yes, my research, preparation for my art forms is done mostly at home. I find that having this as an option is very beneficial because my books, internet and quiet-focused space allow me to be more productive.

Q: Have you worked more or less since you became a later mom?  

A: Mostly more, and I managed to integrate my family with my work, so we were not separated a lot when my children were young; they grew up surrounded by thespians, musicians, dancers and designers…which exposed them to most of earth’s beings and made them both into wonderfully, well-rounded culturally astute individuals.

Q: Has anything about being a mom surprised you?  What do you most want to teach your children?  

A: About their culture and historical information…about who they are as African Children growing up in America.

Q: What influence, if any, has your own mother had in your life and in your parenting?

A: My mother was a single parent for most of our lives, and her oldest daughter, my sister, was the “Mother at Home,” while our mother worked long hours.  My mother’s commitment to providing for her children taught me about being independent, assertive and the responsibility of running a household. I was the second oldest, so myself and brother and sister, next in line, all pitched in to support the household our mother had established.  Keeping the family together and thriving was the only option.

Q: Where do you turn for support as a mom?

A: I almost always turn to my friends, around my age, those that I established friendships with in our early adulthood. Yet, I have always been and will continue to listen to those who give good advice, regardless of age.

Q: Were others in show business a support to you? 

A: Definitely, at times they have been the ones who see you through because show biz folk create an extended family, like the ones I grew up with on the South Side of Chicago.

Q: How important is it to connect with mom peers?  

A: It is important because you have someone to compare “notes” and information with, different points of view. This creates a wider perspective, yet having and acknowledging your own intuition and observations is vital.

Q: What words of wisdom would you most like to share with others contemplating becoming a mom later in life?

A: Because I’m an active, physically fit later mom, it’s been good for my children and me.  So, I’d say to others, “Keep Yourself or Get Yourself” in shape, your physical self, mind self, spirit self. There’s a wonderful challenge ahead and look forward to it.  So, glad I did, I would not take it back for anything, anything in this world.