Play explores history of civil rights movement

A theatrical performance touched close to home for some audience members attending “Let it Shine: The American Civil Rights Movement,” presented by a touring troupe from Asheville, North Carolina.

The 45-minute presentation Monday at The Commons featured two actors from Bright Star Touring Theater, who re-enacted scenes from the history of the civil rights movement. It was part of a day full of tributes and remembrances about Martin Luther King Jr., and his dream of a future for all based on equality and justice.

The scenes included depictions of the 1955 arrest of Rosa Parks for sitting in the white-only section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to the 1963 assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi.

The actors portrayed the historic 1965 march from Selma, Alabama to the state capital in Montgomery.

In the Selma march, as the protesters approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were attacked with clubs and tear gas by police and armed citizens, and police unleashed dogs to attack the protesters. The march, on March 7, 1965, is now called America’s “Bloody Sunday.”

Retired Methodist minister Bucky Jordan, who spoke briefly after the play, broke down in tears remembering his own experiences participating in a follow-up protest two days after the first march on Montgomery.

“I was there,” said Jordan, before he was overcome with emotion.

“I’ve lived long enough to see and experience the things they’re talking about,” said Bishop Charles A. Sims, senior pastor of the Calvary Community Church in Columbus.

Sims remembers traveling by bus through Illinois in 1964 on his way to St. Louis from Indiana. The bus had a layover in a town called Vandalia, Illinois. When he tried to eat lunch at a local restaurant, several white customers and the server told Sims that he was not welcome in the diner.

“We’ve come a long way,” Sims said. “But it is still so important for these stories to be told, so that people can remember just how far we have come.”

The actors answered questions from the crowd after the presentation, including several from students who were able to attend as Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. did not have classes Monday.

One student asked why people were so violent during the civil rights struggle, and other students wanted to know specifics about the show’s presentation.

“Seeing the number of students out of school, we wanted to make sure kids were getting enough education about Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement,” said Tami Sharp, program director for Columbus Area Arts Council, which scheduled the presentation.

About 170 people attended the show, about half the size of last year.

Sharp said it was likely the extremely cold temperatures — in the single digits in the morning low teens in the afternoon — discouraged many from attending the play.