Stage play looks at history of slavery, civil rights

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The stage play is called from "From Slavery to the White House," and the woman behind it says it aims to teach as well as entertain. (WLS)

The stage play is called from "From Slavery to the White House," and the woman behind it says it aims to teach as well as entertain.

Imagine going to work and coming home to find your child has been stolen and shipped to another land. That's the feeling Crystal Phoenix Tyler hopes to evoke as her cast re-enacts the start of slavery.

"The actors actually start in Africa and work their way through every era through the present day talking about what was going on socially, politically and economically as it relates to African Americans," Tyler, a playwright, director and actor, said.

The play "From Slavery to the White House" tours each decade through the eyes of 103-year-old Fannie Geraldine Johnson. She is portrayed by Charlotte Smith.

"Fannie is an amazing woman who of course has come up through the the civil rights time. She's come up through segregation and racism, the whole gamut," Smith said. "She knew how to bring each era to the surface because she experienced it."

The play moves from the ugliest part of the country's past to also document many of its triumphs - including the black pride era of the 1970s. It culminates in the second term of our first African American president.

"I'm hoping that they walk away with a sense of pride, a sense of worth, a sense of knowing their worth and who we are as a people and to understand where we've been and where we've come from," said David Walker. "We have to understand where we've been to understand where we're going."

The play's author is an attorney by trade. She says she wants the audience to experience a full range of black history as American history.

"If you know your history, you won't repeat it. You have to keep it alive," Tyler said.

And after it is done, the actors hope those who see it, won't soon forget.

"We want this to resonate in their spirit while they're home. What can I do to make things better or is just having a black president enough?" Smith said.

"From Slavery to the White House" took to the stage on Saturday at New Zion Covenant Church in south suburban Dolton. For more information, visit http://www.cphoenixtyler.com/#!current-production/cb3i.

Related Topics:
societyblack historyentertainmentDolton
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