Road to Freedom

Alexandria Smith, Copy Editor

Staff, students and members of the community chronicled the lives of individuals who strove to fight for civil rights – nearly 100 years before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s emergence as a reformative leader – through a live music and video multimedia event held on Jan. 24 in the Lemmond Theater.

“Road to Freedom” highlighted prominent pioneers of civil and racial justice such as Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, W.E. DuBois, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott and Dr. King, in a combination of moving commentary, vocal performances, image montage and video captures.

“Road to Freedom” is one of several touring productions developed by the Philadelphia- based Key Arts Productions that showcases the lives and culture of African American lives and culture in American while taking on a much broader message according to productions President Joseph Patterson.

“We wanted young people to know that the civil rights movement didn’t just start with Dr. King and Rosa Parks. It started way before and it still goes on,” said Patterson. “And even today the civil rights, there are civil rights movements in China and other countries. It’s not only in our countries but in other parts of the world as well.”

Patterson, alongside fellow performing vocalists Lourie Mitchell Gay and Jeremy Isaac, both of  Philadelphia, provided a new dimension of emotion and reality to these historical events through their passionate renditions of “Lean on Me,” “I Believe I Can Fly” and “God is Watching Us,” as well as other contemporary songs. Sophomore occupational therapy major Bridget Guarnieri was especially moved by the performance.

“I definitely thought that using a multimedia presentation enhanced the show especially with the voiceovers and the clip of the race riots,” said Guarnieri. “It made it all more real. We’ve been taught about these atrocities since we were young but it still was kind of hushed over. I think the presentation brought it home and forced you to truly realize how awful our past was.”

First year occupational therapy major Elena Uribe didn’t know what to expect from the program but she said she naturally embraced it.

“I never really got to see a lot of video clips from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s march. But it’s very interesting and it makes it more real when people show clips or photos from the actual time period and the actual events,” said Uribe.

The performers said they could feel their connection with the audience as well as the impact a human message can make on an individual.

“Tonight’s performance we really felt the energy from the audience, you know, when we sang the songs and everyone sang along with us, and, it’s kind of a good feeling that although this is kind of some deep and intense subject matter it’s good to make light of it. To really say, ‘Hey, let’s all work together to make a change. To treat one another with respect.'” said Patterson.

There was yet another kind of energy from the audience during the performance and it was highly spiritual. Gay expressed the feeling of inner peace and certainty that comes from performing, especially during “Road to Freedom.”

“I know this sounds cliché but, sometimes, you don’t pick a thing, a thing picks you,” said Gay. “And I think that is part of why we do what we do. It’s sometimes not even a matter of choice. It literally picks you. You get up one day and you go, ‘Oh, I can do this,’ and then when you get up in front of people, and you move people, and you go, ‘This is what I was supposed to do.’ It’s an incredible feeling when you know that something – a gift – God gave you a gift and when you get to share that, when you know you can do that. It picks you and you don’t even know why.”

[email protected]