by Jordan Bell
Black history month this year in Roanoke City was a time of many celebrations. Among the productions was the team of Bernadette Brown and Semelle Ramsey along with many others including youth of the city that put on a Black History play Friday, Feb. 23 at Community Action Center (CAC) on Melrose Ave. Loudon Avenue Christian Church also ended the month with a bang. With “Black to the Future,” the name of the play put on by the church’s youth on Sunday, Feb. 25.
Both productions were very well organized and featured spoken word, dance, music and much more. The purpose both was to showcase the talent of young people while also telling the story of our ancestors.
The play at Loudon Avenue was produced by “Unique’Lee Divine,” sister and brother, Laticia and Javelle Lee, both members of the church. Priscilla Casey gave a beautiful rendition of Nikki Giovanni’s poem “Ego Trippin” as she twirled around on stage flaunting her Ancient Egyptian wings.
The purpose of Black History Month is to come together and celebrate, teach and learn the history of Black People throughout the world. Sometimes the best way to do this is through theatrics. Young girls and boys learned about African dance and African culture and about what their ancestors in America suffered through for many years as slaves. The story of Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner and their African ancestors was among those told.
Many people came out and packed both the CAC and Loudon Avenue Christian Church for these celebrations that followed a timeline tracing from when Africans were actually stolen from their villages and sold as slaves in America–up until the election of Barack Obama as first African-American president of the United States.
Ending the play, on Sunday the youth passed out flags of countries around the world that the audience waved as “We Are The World” played in the background.
Bernadette Jones and Semelle Ramsey’s play AMERI’LIGION held at CAC featured many people from the community but the stars of the show were the youth who portrayed such local greats as Lucy Addison, James H. Roberts, Rev. Raymond R. Wilkinson and Dr. Beth Brown.
The play was produced to raise awareness to African American culture and the importance of listening to their elders. Many parts of the play involved the youth surrounding the feet of an elder who told stories of old and the hardships faced by Blacks. Old Negro spirituals were also performed depicting the way Black people sang these songs as a mode of comfort and to hide their plans of escaping from their slave masters to freedom. The standing room only audience was amazed at how much history was packed into such a short duration of time.
Many people at both events expressed the need for establishing a local facility to feature such talent and information as exhibited through the many productions held about town in celebration of Black History Month.