JUNETEENTH Virtual Tour 2010
Choosing to Run or Stand Strong
Episode 1: John Henry
from THE LIFE OF JOHN HENRY by Chris Braak
The first stop on the 2010 Juneteenth Tour moved its position. It originally at Zummo's Hardware store. This was an original location of the Underground Railroad.
This Tour is thematically tied to the idea of standing or running and how each choice is powered by hope, fear and tragedy. Because of the overall length of the tour, this scene was moved to Tone Realty on Main and DeKalb to shorten the walk. The video reflects that change but the core ideas of the event and the first four tours all took the longer route.
Episode 2: Crixus
from Keith Glover's Coming of the Hurricane
This episode is one of my favorite monologues. It ends the first act of the Glover's play and is a mighty reflection on the choices one needs to make to save their own life and keep their promises. It is tragic, moving and beautifully performed by Richard Bradford. Crixus runs from his masters but at a high cost both in lives and to his soul. The scene gives the modern viewer a sense of the real experience of a runaway slave and sets the stage for the comforting presence of Tubman and the underground railroad. In a moment, every man has to choose to act with only a hope that the fates will favor his choice and the consequences will be what was expected.
Episode 3: Harriet Tubman
Running alone and without guidance was a dangerous adventure as Crixus' story relates. This next monologue written by Bonita Hadrick for the 2010 Norristown NAACP Banquet, give insight into Harriet Tubman, one of the most important conductors on the Underground railroad.The scene was performed on Penn Street at the sight of the birth home of Charles Blockson, internationally recognized African American historian and the beneficiary of Harriet Tubman's estate. The scene played right in a Norristown neighborhood. The piece gives context to the Underground Railroad and helps understand who Tubman was and what sacrifices she made to save others.
Episode 4: Martin Luther King: Letter from a Birmingham Jail
at the closed Montgomery County Prison
In this inaugural Juneteenth tour, it seemed fitting to include Martin Luther King and the Montgomery County Commissioners graciously offered to open the doors of the Montgomery County Prison for the event. Walter DeShields brings King to life in the passionate presentation of an edited verion of the Letter. King's works are still radical. They call for people to get out of their safe zones, rethink their roles in society, and refuse to take the easy and the socially accepatble route. King sees a big picture. Editing this was one of the hardest things I have ever done as a director or designer and an essay on that proccess can be found at the Iron Age Theatre Production Blog...Here. The tour is no longer in historical order but King's speech is a great centerpiece as it talks about individual responsibility for making a change and the need for a larger societal change. Tubman is the individual taking King's path and Frederick Douglass' next speech in the tour will relfect the institutional changes needed.
Episode 5: Frederick Douglass
on the steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse
Frederick Douglass speaks on the Marble steps of the Montgomery County Courthouse. His speech relates his beleif that freedom must come before sufferage and tells the story of his relationship with noted Women's Rights advocates. It is a speech about standing for your own convictions even when respected friends say otherwise and for sticking to the clearest goal. Douglass gives and folksy, intellectual appraisal of the way to make social change. The piece was performed across from the site of First Baptist Chruch, now gone and replaced by One Montgomery Plaza. 1st Baptist was a hub of abolitionist activity in Norristown and the region.
Episode 6: An Abolitionist from Slave Narratives Revisited by Ed Shockley at Hancock Square
This monologue from Ed Shockley's play Slave Narratives Revisited, relates how an individual encounter with slavery and the beauty and humanity of African Americans can change a passive, complicite southerner into an advocate for abolition. Shockley let's the metaphor of the white southerner and the beautiful slave girl draw the audiene past preconceptions and into a clearer understanding of the core reasons for abolitionist activity. It also shows that by changing the heart of each person, we can conduct positive social change.
Episode 7: IMAGINE BEING MORE AFRAID OF FREEDOM THAN SLAVERY by Pamela Sneed
The final stop on the 2010 tour is a poem I found at Larry Robbin's Bookstore in Philly during the run of Citizen Paine. The poem by the amazing Pamela Sneed, a contemporary African American lesbian poet, sums up the entire journey of the tour. The title and main ideas reflect Crixus and John Henry's view of slavery. The references to Harriet Tumbman enhance the monologue by Tubman in Episode 3 of the tour. The struggle is reflected in Martin Luther King. Her focus on Women's issues is connected to Frederick Douglass and the overwhelming beauty and need for a decision... and action is a fitting followup to the Abolitionist. Sneed references history throughout the poem. She is aware of history and it is valid to her personally and intimately. Ending the tour on petry is important to me. The literary experience has been undersold in today's culture. The need for passionate encounters with poetry will develop the soul of the nation.
Event Sponsors: Norristown NAACP, Iron Age Theatre, The Centre Theater.
Special Thanks to the Montgomery County Commissioners, Steve Nelson, John Corcoran, The Centre Theater, Shoprite, Barbara Milligan, The Norristown Police, Chief Bono, The Norristown Municipal Council, the residents of Norristown.
If you would like to sponsor the event, please contact us.
Directed and Designed by John Doyle