'Freedom Riders' opens Thursday at Star Center Youth Theater


Published: Thursday, January 11, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 2:05 p.m.
Ride the train to freedom as the Star Center Theater takes its audiences back into time as it presents ''Freedom Riders.''
Under the direction of Carol Velasques, ''Freedom Riders'' is set in 1961 and tells the story of the men and women who traveled to the South to join the civil rights movement.
The play opens at 8 p.m. Thursday at the theater at 2131 NW 6th St. Other times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. General admission is $7 for adults and $4 for children under 12. Tickets can be purchased at the door and at Omni Books, W. University Avenue and NW 34th Street.
The Freedom Riders of the civil rights movement participated in a series of nonviolent demonstrations during that era. The group consisted of blacks and mostly white college students who volunteered to ride buses into the segregated South to test the 1960 Boyton vs. Virginia U.S. Supreme Court decision that outlawed racial segregation at interstate transportation facilities like bus stations and railroad terminals.
They faced a lot of resistance for their cause, but eventually, they developed strong support from people in the South and in other cities across the nation.
The center's production, written by Tom Quinn, evolves around two young women from Harvard as they ponder their decision to join the Freedom Riders.
The audience will get to ''meet'' Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcom X, Sen. Robert Kennedy, President Theodore Roosevelt, W.E.B. Dubois and Alabama Gov. George Wallace as well as others who fought for and against civil rights for blacks.
There will be lunch counter sit-ins and a first-hand look at the days of Jim Crow laws as performers bring the civil rights struggle alive in words and songs.
Jim Crow was the name of the racial caste system that operated primarily, but not exclusively in southern and border states, between 1877 and the mid-1960s. More than a series of rigid anti-black laws, Jim Crow was a way of life whereby blacks were relegated to the status of second-class citizens.
"It is a must see for everyone who values freedom and a great history lesson honoring those who have paved the way for us to enjoy some of these blessings of life, many oftentimes taken for granted," said Velasques.
The cast includes Rhonda Wilson, who founded the theater, Jerry Rose, Constance Fields, DeAndre Fields, Thomas Brinsko, Jorga McAfee, Heidi Johnson, Alexander Mzarek, Marty Lamar Griffin and Rashawnda Young-Washington.

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