When Lynda Blackmon Lowery wrote her book (with Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley), Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, she was determined to reach out to young people and, hopefully, inspire them to make a difference.
It worked. Lowery’s struggle – including several beatings and nine arrests prior to her 15th birthday, inspired the actress Ally Sheedy to adapt the book for the stage. Working with Damaras Obi, a senior at at the Fiorello LaGuardia High School of the Performing Arts (the school that inspired “Fame”), the story came alive – complete with the sound effects from actual 60s confrontations.
That performance will be staged in Hudson on Saturday, February 13 at 3pm as a benefit for the Hudson Area Library. The production will take place at the M. C. Smith Intermediary School, 102 Harry Howard Ave., Hudson. Both Ms. Sheedy and Ms. Lowery will make an appearance following the production. Copies of the book will be available for sale – courtesy of Spotty Dog Books and Ale. Suggested donation is $10.00 per person, students free.
Besides inspiring a stage production, the book has been used for lessons by 5th grade teacher Edgar Acevedo and has prompted his students to delve further into the Civil Rights Movement. The Hudson High School Choir, under the direction of Andrea Mastrianni, learned songs from the era and will perform prior to the play.
This topic has galvanized the City of Hudson. Last week the Library-sponsored “Civil Rights Show and Tell” drew more than 40 people, from ages 16 to 80, to fill the reading room and share tales of local residents’ participation in the Movement. Attendees included young students, who expressed gratitude and surprise at those white Freedom Riders and Demonstrators who put themselves on the line, “When it wasn’t even for themselves.” African American residents spoke about change that has happened and the ongoing need for further change in order to bring about full equality. Included in the “show and tell” was a moving 2-minute video created by Jim Peppler, an award-winning photographer who spent 3 years recording the violence for the newspaper of record, The Southern Courier.
Bringing this story to life – through teaching, testifying and adapting for the stage, has more than advanced Ms. Lowery’s goal – as she recently told Arun Rath, commentator on National Public Radio.
“I would like for young people to know that each day of your life is a journey into history,” she said. “You have the ability to change something each day of your life. …It can’t happen without you.”
The project is presented by the Loire Valley Theater Festival, Miranda Barry, producer, and the Hudson Area Library. Additional support from the Martha Boschen Porter Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Galvan Foundation, the David Murphy Charitable Fund, Hudson River Bank and Trust, and in-kind contributions from the Hudson City School District.