Linda Blackmon Lowery, Youngest Selma Marcher, Inspires Students
In March 1965, Lynda Blackmon Lowery was the youngest person to march from Selma to Montgomery in an effort to register black voters as part of the civil rights movement. She was beaten in the historic confrontation on the Edmund Pettis Bridge and required stitches to close two cuts on her head. Lowery returned to march a few weeks later, one of only 300 people allowed to start from Selma again, cross the bridge—with an escort from National Guardsman—and walk for days to Montgomery, where they were joined by thousands of people. She turned 15 during that march that helped bring about the Voting Right’s Act. As part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day programming, school librarian Alla Umanskaya invited Lowery to PS/IS 30 Mary White Ovington school in Brooklyn, NY, to tell her story directly to the students. For her part, Lowery wants kids to know that young people can make a difference.
“Impactful! A powerful experience for young people – and not so young people.”
—National Public Radio, WAMC, Albany NY
Originally planned by Joe Donohue for 12 minutes, he devoted the entire hour to the story and we had audience from as far away as Springfield and New Jersey as a result.
Review from the (Hudson, NY) Register Star 2-14-2016
One Woman Play about Voting Rights draws Sold-Out Crowd
From IMBY Catskill, February 13, 2017
“This is why theater is more than entertainment . . . its purpose is to activate the soul, wake us up, make sure we keep our souls intact—by doing the work which must be done and when it is needed. Thank you Bridge Street Theatre.”
Albany Times-Union, February 6, 2016
Civil rights story portrayed
Ally Sheedy, known for roles in movies "The Breakfast Club" and "Psych," will direct a one-woman performance based on the 2015 memoir, "Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March" by Lynda Blackmon Lowery.
The performance will be 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13, at M.C. Smith Intermediate School, 102 Harry Howard Ave., Hudson.
The Hudson High School Choir will open the event by performing songs from the civil rights era, and the show stars actress Damaras Obi. The story recounts the experiences of a Lowery growing up in Selma, Ala., during the height of the civil rights movement. She was jailed nine times before her 15th birthday as a result of her participation in voting rights marches. After the show, Lowery will share her experiences and answer questions.
In preparation for the performance, Edgar Acevedo, a fifth-grade M.C. Smith teacher, incorporated the book into his lessons. The focus of study was the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a topic included in the New York state curriculum modules, so his class tied the book into the declaration whenever possible.
"We developed background knowledge as we read the book," Acevedo said. As kids had questions, they would use their Chromebooks to research topics such as the U.S. Congress, different time periods, and make comparisons to what was happening during the 1960s. The suggested donation is $10 for adults and free for children under the age of 12. All tickets will be sold at the door. Proceeds will benefit the Hudson
The project is presented by the Loire Valley Theater Festival, Miranda Barry (producer), and the Hudson Area Library and is supported by the Martha Boschen Porter Fund of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, the Galvan Foundation, the David Murphy Charitable Fund, and Hudson River Bank and Trust.
Telling stories of risk and courage
By John Mason
HUDSON - It was the 1960s again in the central room of the Hudson Area Library Thursday evening as concentric circles of people gathered to tell and hear first-hand stories about the U.S. Civil Rights movement.
Some of the stories took place in the Deep South, others in the Segregated North, but they all shared the excitement of incredible and profound change and the struggle against injustice.
Pamela Badila and two students from Perfect Ten, Hallie Delesline and Emma Krein-Hart, led the evening off with a rousing spiritual, and organizers Miranda Barry and Ann Rosenthal provided the introductions.
Musician and conductor Gwen Gould said she first became involved as a sophomore in her rural Dutchess County high school in 1959. Episcopal Church youth conferences led to her joining the 1963 March on Washington.
"It was spooky: The roads were cleared," she said. "There was no traffic other than the buses. It was powerful hearing Martin Luther King speak." In college in southern Indiana, she was friends all four years with three of the few African-American women in the school. As a freshman, the university called her mother to see if it was "OK" if she roomed with a black woman.
Bob Heller was one of the Freedom Riders. Born in Long Island, he attended Tulane University in Louisiana in 1959-1960. Witnessing segregation for the first time, he joined the Conference on Racial Equality in his sophomore year. At a national CORE meeting, he met CORE President James Farmer, who came up with the idea for the Freedom Rides based on Gandhi's march to the sea in India. The idea was to integrate transportation of all kinds - segregation was illegal, but was still practiced. Some of the riders started in the north and came south on buses; others, like Heller, got on trains in New Orleans and went north, in this case to Jackson, Mississippi.
There, they got off the train and whites would use colored only drinking fountains or colored-only bathrooms, and blacks would use white fountains or bathrooms. They were immediately arrested and escorted to paddy wagons.
Heller said he was one of the first white people in jail, but the big room filled up quickly.
“I was there three or four weeks,” he said. “The idea was to fill up the jails and get as much publicity as possible. We were treated fairly decently because they felt the world was looking at us. I felt the Kennedys were giving us protection.”
Heller said that, after 40 years, the Occupy Wall Street movement reawakened his interest in politics and he leafletted for it in the New York subway system.
“I’m a great believer in protest,” he said.
Hudson gallery owner Mark Orton was in a northern Wisconsin college in the late 1960s. “If you were in college, you weren’t drafted,” he said. “The injustice was obvious.”
The Student Christian Leadership Conference was trying to start something in Chicago, and Orton and his friends drove down for spring break. Their task was to canvas door-to-door.
“I just remember the incredible power of marching up to a tenant’s door and saying, ‘Dr. King sent me,’“ he said. “Every door opened.” One time, he said, it was a group of hairdressers. “I felt I was trespassing, but they invited me in and made coffee,” he said. “I told them the whole story.”
Orton said he now fears for the safety of his two African-American grandchildren in New York City.
Ruth Tamiroff of Hudson worked for a Chicago peace organization at the time.
“I got involved with whatever I could do with SCLC,” she said. She worked a few days a week at the YWCA with a group of African-American Head Start mothers. They found that supermarkets in the suburbs were charging less for groceries than those in the inner city.
“We organized a caravan to bring black mothers out to the suburbs to go shopping,” she said, and another to take white mothers into the inner city to shop. They were worried because the inner city store appeared nice, and TV viewers would ask, “What’s wrong with that?”
“But an amazing thing happened. That night on TV, we saw that after the caravan left all the black employees walked off the job: They knew they were making less money. They ended that supermarket.”
One of the highlights of her experience came when she had to meet and talk with Coretta Scott King during a two-hour taxi ride. “Unbelievable excitement,” she said. “She was a marvelous woman.”
Videographer Todd Martin said, “The struggle continues. It’s hard to legislate people’s hearts. Every generation requires that you stand up and fight oppression. How can we put ourselves out there to say this is not acceptable? People have gotten complacent, but injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. People died, suffered were beaten: You’re standing on the shoulders of these people.
[You have to say]: ‘I’m going to do whatever it takes because I’m going to have children. What are the issue I want to be involved in?’ Every generation has its activists.”
The event was in connection with a performance and residency inspired by Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s memoir, “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom.” Lowery was the youngest person to complete the historic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. A play based on her book will be performed at 3 p.m. Feb. 13 at M.C. Smith Intermediate School. Lowery and director Ally Sheedy will be there to speak with the audience.