Every February is a time to observe and celebrate the achievements made by black individuals for racial justice throughout U.S. history. Not only does Black History Month help us to remember what has happened in American history to bring our country closer to justice and equality, but it also serves to demonstrate how society is better today due to the efforts of the black individuals who courageously fought for their rights.
This year, there is an excellent opportunity for the entire Orange City community to celebrate Black History Month and learn about one of the most significant protests that took place during the civil rights movement, a movement that brought so much change in the issue of racial justice. Orange City Arts has partnered with Mad River Theater Works to perform the musical drama “Freedom Riders.” This production features professional stage actors from Mad River Theater Works and will be taking place on Saturday, Feb. 3 in the Unity Christian Knights Center in Orange City.
“Freedom Riders” is set in 1961, when the civil rights movement was exploding. This production tells the story of some of the activists who rode segregated buses in the United States when the fight for racial equality was being met with severe opposition. Even though racial segregation on public buses had been ruled by the United States Supreme Court as unconstitutional, a change was not happening on the buses. Southern states had been ignoring the court decisions, and nothing was being done to enforce what had been decided in court.
These activists decided to challenge this by riding buses in the South and sitting in “whites only” sections of the bus instead of sitting in the only place where black individuals were allowed to be — the back of the bus. Their non-violent protests were met with aggression from law enforcement, other passengers riding the buses and members of the Ku Klux Klan. The riders were attacked by mobs and even policemen with no opposition from anyone. They were frequently beaten and sometimes arrested. Because of their courage and fight for justice, they drew attention to the need for the federal law to be addressed and actually enforced rather than disregarded. Through their efforts, buses finally became non-segregated.
“Freedom Riders” will tell the stories of the people who rode the buses using a combination of music and drama. This is a great opportunity to not only learn about an important period of American history, but also to appreciate the fight people in history have put up to bring about justice in our country.
Thanks to an art project grant from Iowa Arts Council, the charge for the production is a “Pay What You Can.” Orange City Arts recommends a $15 donation, but tickets can be purchased for lower prices, including as low as $1. Tickets can be purchased online by visiting orangecityarts.net. Everyone is welcome to attend the production, which will begin at 7 p.m. on Feb. 3. The production runs for about an hour and a half.
“Mad River Theater Works’ ‘Freedom Riders’ is recommended for third grade and up,” Executive Director Bauer said.
“I think it’s so important to be able to share our shared history together with multiple generations of community members and to pass on some of the very real courage presented in the play to people of all ages and backgrounds,” Bauer said. “That’s also why Orange City Arts’ Board of Directors and I were so excited to be able to offer the tickets as Pay What You Can — we want this experience to be available to all.”