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Dr. Jacgueline Lawrence
Dr. Jacgueline Lawrence directing a performance

Dr. Jacgueline Lawrence - Building a Legacy

Feb 2, 2019
by Elaine B. Holtz

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“Growing up, my family would read slave novels and I became interested in the history of my people specifically that which took place on the plantations duringslavery said Dr. Jacqueline Lawrence, founder of Legacy Showcases, a black history production company in Santa Rosa. As time went on, Dr. Lawrence became interested in collecting black memorabilia and turned her home into what appeared to be an African American Museum.

A native of San Francisco, Dr. Lawrence moved to Sonoma County at the age of four. At that time, her family was one of few African American families in the area. Attending predominantly white schools, although she knew she was different, she did not sense racism. It was through the media that she became aware of the issue.  “It was through watching movies on television (i.e. Roots) and later while attending school in Alabama, that I saw firsthand the deeper tragedies of racism,” she stated. 

Because of the myths surrounding black people, like many of her white counterparts, as a child, she feared her own people. It was not until she moved to Santa Rosa and began attending Community Baptist Church that some of her fears were squelched, as she began to see the more positive side of her race. After graduating from Santa Rosa high school in 1979, she attended and later graduated from Tuskegee University in Alabama, a historical black college, where she studied Business Administration. She reports that it was a culture shock when she arrived, as it was her first time being around a majority of black people, which caused her to once again, assess the myths about them, and explore how she was influenced by them, causing her to completely lose her fears of her people.

In 1989 she completed her coursework for her teaching credential at Sonoma State University, and later studied at Sacramento Theological Seminary and Bible College where she earned her Master’s degree in Theology and a Doctorate degree in Christian Counseling. 

One of her main inspirations was a visit to a plantation in Louisiana. Sitting alone in the slave quarters in solidarity with the spirits of her ancestors, she made a commitment to not allow their legacy to die. 

Upon returning home she established The Underground Railroad African American Museum, which is now a pop-up exhibit that is displayed at various events throughout the Bay Area.

As part of her journey, in 1995, she decided to combine her passion for black memorabilia and history with acting to bring forth the ignorance and ugliness of racism, and created her first monologue entitled, “Mz. Mammy”, a proud and empowered fictitious slave character. This led to her creation of Legacy Showcases.  To date, Jacqueline has written and performed in seven productions, which include: Single and Waiting,Deliverance, Gray Hope, Unshackled, the Evolution of Mammy, and A Day in the Life of a Slave.  Because of its educational and fun nature, her favorite play,“The Spirit of Us”, which is a rhythmic revealing of the redemptive heart and soul of African Americans, beckons an escape to freedom.  This production describes a distinct musical style unique to the plantation slaves which birthed Negro spirituals, blues, gospel, jazz, r&b, hip hop, and greatly influenced all genres of music worldwide, including coming full circle to impact today’s African music. 

The main purpose of her production company, as she states, is for her people to recognize their value, and for everyone to recognize their biases, to decrease prejudice and racism, to gain knowledge and inspiration, and to provide due reparations to blacks- mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially, so that together, we can heal.

As a God-centered individual, she believes in the idea of, “love your neighbor as yourself,” and understands that until you know your neighbor and your neighbor knows you, things will not change.  To facilitate that idea, she has developed a monthly event dedicated to looking at racism from the inside out called,“Unshackled First Wednesdays Racial Discussion Group”, its purpose, to encourage racial healing in our community. “With such a low percentage of blacks in Santa Rosa, I want people to increase their awareness, knowledge, and understanding of our culture as African Americans,” she explains. These discussion groups are held on the first Wednesday of each month at - and are sponsored by - the Arlene Francis Center in (99 6th St,)Santa Rosa from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm. 

Other upcoming performances include a solo act by Lawrence onFebruary 13 at the Santa Rosa Junior College’s One Love Diversity Festival, where she will also present her black history museum exhibit.  And on February 23rd, Legacy Showcases will present“The Spirit of Us” at the Sonoma County Museum. She is working on a play, “I Am Woman”, as she believes women suffer from a similar form of discrimination to blacks, and a slave song workshop. For more information, visit  www.legacyshowcases.com

“If we fail to address the atrocities of racism during these modern times when the light is being so brightly shined on them,” states Lawrence, “then racism will likely never end.”

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