Prior to the concert, Nashville is invited to two conversations with immersive audience participation. The Ride Alongs With the Freedom Riders events are a cross generational discussion of what worked then for the Freedom Riders, with a reality that times are not the same, yet the work for progress remains. Each conversation will feature Freedom Riders and a local civil rights activist sharing their experiences. Freedom Riders will lead the audience in the training they received to prepare for the freedom rides. These will be held on February 11 at the Nashville Public Library Main Location and February 13 at First Baptist Church Capitol Hill – a site where nonviolent training was held.
For 2020, the event will partner with Versify, a WPLN podcast, to create poems written by local poets based on the stories Freedom Riders shared. As attendees arrive to Fisk Chapel, a Witness Walk gallery will be placed along the back wall that will feature the poems, bio and pictures of the Freedom Riders. The podcasts are scheduled to be released in April 2020.
The program will honor the Freedom Riders still living in Nashville for they are the shoulders upon which we stand today. Dr. Ernest “Rip” Patton, Dr. Allen Cason Jr., Dr. Etta Rae Simpson, Dr. Fredrick Leonard, Dr. Jean Smith, Joy Leonard and Patricia Armstrong are among those who participated in the Freedom Rides. Choral Arts Link’s MET Singers and Intersection, led by Kelly Corcoran, will share the Freedom Riders’ stories and experiences through music and spoken word. The development of the community engagement events, narration and scripted portions of the performance will be curated by the project, "Freedom Riders: Strategy of a Movement” led by Teree Campbelle McCormick, project coordinator and Jon Royal, artistic director.
Choral Arts Link, Fisk University and Intersection continue their collaborative effort that began in 2017 with Upon These Shoulders. This event takes place on February 15, 2020, at 7 pm in Fisk Chapel on the campus of the historic Fisk University. “From the Back of the Bus” will artistically share scenarios that fostered the grit and determination that propelled activists throughout the civil rights movement. Prior to the concert, two cross-generational discussions featuring the Freedom Riders will be held.
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