“Bringing Life to History”

Living Voices, interactive discussion at Scotland School

5th Grade students at Scotland Elementary School recently journeyed to a defining moment in history when they experienced “A Journey Through America’s Civil Rights Movement” performed by Living Voices, an interactive theater group from Seattle, Washington.

Living Voices aims to “Bring Life to History” through live multi media performances.  As stated on their website, http://www.livingvoices.org, this innovative organization “uses a unique combination of theatre, video and live interaction to create a high impact event, which allows audiences to discover history’s relevance to their lives.  Through this, the students experience what it was like to live in another time, by using dynamic archival imagery combined with a live performer.”

5th grader Tim Vanni really liked the presentation. He said “The actor was great and I was impressed that he interacted with the Smart Board!”.

The students watched a movie called “The Right to Dream”.  It presented the struggle and sacrifice for civil rights in America.  It recreates a young man's coming of age as an African American in Mississippi during the 1950's and 1960's. This program illuminates the issues of civil rights, leading audiences to understand how the fight against prejudice has shaped our history. 

The “Right to Dream” follows the life of a boy, Raymond, after he is no longer allowed to see his best friend because his best friend is white. Raymond becomes aware that segregation and inequality must end in order to imagine a brighter future for himself and his family, but his dedication is tested when friends are hurt and killed during the protests of the early 1960‘s.  After attacks by state troopers in Selma, Alabama - and the March from Selma to Montgomery - Raymond and the civil rights workers are rewarded with the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Raymond, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dedicates himself to continuing the fight against racism and raising his people out of the world of intolerance.

This performance was planned to tie in with the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to really give the 5th graders a better understanding of events that they have little experience of in their lives today.  While they have read the history books, this performance, together with the added explanations and illustrations given by the live actor, really brought the subject to life and gave them a great opportunity to develop an even deeper understanding of this period in American history.

Hannah Boylan said “I learned about the civil rights movement in class, but this presentation helped me really relate to the story being told.”  Leslie Peterson agreed.  She said “I thought I knew a lot about the civil rights movement, but there were parts of the story that I had never heard before, I never really knew how cruel white people were to the blacks”.

Scotland principal Mark Solomon, first came across Living Voices more than 20 years ago when he watched a presentation on Anne Frank.  He was so impressed by what he saw that “The Right to Dream” is now an important part of the 5th Grade Scotland experience.

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