JUNETEENTH Virtual Tour 2011
Broken Hearts, Purchased Lives, Sacred Words
Episode 1: Slave Narrative: WL Bost
This is the First stop on the 2011 Tour. The Performance was located at the top of the steps on Hancock Square at the Montgomery Cunty Courthouse on DeKalb Street. The Audience walked past the Police Monument and up stone steps to meet the first character.
This fist monologue provided several important factors. Beginning with a white character, a non slave owner, who saw the slave sales and the treatment of slaves but was not a beneficiary of the trade, established a new perspective. Bost's dialogue is full of inappropriate language and yet as he speaks he realizes much about what he is saying.
The key points of the first monologue reflect the power of commerce to drive people to dehumanize the Africans, the separation of husbands and wives, and the palpable cruelty of the slave traders.
Episode 2: Slave Narrative: Mary Bell
Civil War Monument...
The Second Slave Narrative piece tells the story of a daughter whose parents were sold to two different owners. Her tale of a father who visits her family, beaten and bruised and his attempt to flee his master, is heartbreaking. This pieces again relates the nature of familial love in the harshest of situations and the cruelty of the commercial trade human life.
The narrator, Mary Bell, is to some great extent, unaware of what is actually being said in her story. We get the chance to feel the need for emancipation from the inside.
Episode 3: Slave Narrative: Frank Bell
County Courhouse/Swede Street (Site of 1st Baptist Church)
The third narrative in the opening cycle of the 2011 Juneteenth tour is a monologue by Frank Bell. His situation is very different than the common perception of slavers.
He is a single slave owned by a saloon owner. His role is like an employee of a local bar but his status is that of a slave, owned and without rights. His story pushes us father than we might expect. The tragedy of his tale brings the idea of love and slavery to a climax.
Frank Bell's story is a metaphor of the stolen Africans from their motherland and the horrible consequences of their enslavement.
Episode 4: "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro" by Frederick Douglass
Ann Street (Site of Norristown's Abolitionist Headquarters.)
Frederick Douglass begins the three performance cycle of speakers about the African American condition. Douglass asks the question: How should the American Slave respond to Independence day. As the 4th approaches and on Emancipation Day, this speech seemed particularly resonate. Aside from Douglass' magnificent discussion of the problem's of America, slavery and politics in his time, Douglass' piece is completely relevant to today.
His discussion of the shrinking of the wold is event more true today's than at his time. His discussion of the behavior of the US as a nation is strikingly accurate, event in 2011. His overall message of hope still supersedes the social commentary.
Like all great radicals, (not extremists but radicals the difference in definition is specific and compelling) Douglass exposes that which others are afraid to say and still sees the possibility of healing the problem he presents. Ending with a Garrison poem, Douglass exposes his literacy as well as his intellect. He is a role model for our politicians today.
Episode 5: "BLACK POWER" by Stokely Carmichael
Main and Cherry Street (Norristown's Oldest Remaining Home)
The fifth presentation is a reading of an edited version of Stokely Carmichael's speech Black Power. The radical and yet non extremist ideas of the pieces are a magnificent way of refocusing our perspective about the issues of slavery and civil rights.
Episode 6: "Ka 'Ba" by Amiri Baraka
Baraka is one of my favorite writers. His life spans from the Beat Poet to Poet Laureate of New Jersey in 2001. He is still active today. Iron Age Theatre produced his Dutchman in 2002 at the African American Museum in Philly. This poem is a simple and succinct conclusion to the pieces presented in the tour.
The poem brings is demanding, empathetic and hopeful. Ending the tour with poetry seems right. Elevating the discourse from Slave Narrative to activist speech to literature echoes the development of any culture from fact to argument to metaphor. The question remains... what are the sacred words?
Tyrone Baker is a Norristown Area High School student and also acted as a tour guide on the 2011 tour. He is a performance poet and his encounter with Baraka has been stimulating.
Iron Age produced his play "The Slave" in its 2011-2012 Season as a culmination of the Juneteenth 2011 tour.
Event Sponsors: TD Bank, Norristown NAACP, Norristown Arts Council, Milligan and Co. LLC, Spotless Maintenance, H and H Realty, Bottom Dollar.
If you would like to sponsor the event, please contact us.
Directed and Designed by John Doyle