It has been such a privilege to work on The Parchman Hour. This project has taken me on a remarkable journey, teaching me profound lessons in courage and sacrifice along the way. One such lesson came this past May when I, along with other members of the cast and the director, Mike Wiley, attended the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides in Jackson, Mississippi.
As waves of Freedom Riders and their families began to flow in, the 15,000-seat auditorium felt like a teapot attempting to contain an ocean. The space ignited with hundreds of stories nearly fifty years old and histories that dated back much further. It still astonishes me that I was able to hear those stories first-hand; I sat next to Jesse Harris who vividly discussed the brutality he experienced while in Parchman and spoke with Joan Trumpauer Mulholland who rode from New Orleans to Jackson with my character, Stokely Carmichael.
The journeys of the Freedom Riders and the legacy of the Freedom Rides filled that space, and in doing so made its way into the hearts and souls of every person present. Now, this production and all those involved are charged with the responsibility of telling the stories of the Freedom Riders and bearing their legacy.
I believe that this play does just that. Like a wave at its summit, it is poised to wash over the audience and pull them right into the thick of the Freedom Rides. So bring your life jackets, because it’s gonna to a fun ride! And when it’s over, hopefully you will leave understanding what I came to understand in May – “freedom does not drop from the sky.” Instead it must be ardently fought for, and, once obtained, lived to its fullest extent. I sincerely thank the many Freedom Riders for not only changing the course of my history, but the path of my future as well. Enjoy the show!