News Column

Story examines slavery

June 1, 2014

By Kathaleen Roberts, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.

June 01--"If you can walk you can dance... If you can talk you can sing." -- African proverb

Most people can easily define the Holocaust. But ask them about the Middle Passage and they're usually dumbfounded.

The Middle Passage formed the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of people from Africa were shipped to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave routes.

The Rainbow Studio Theater's production of "Roots Revival" will address that time in history and more when it helms Santa Fe'sLensic Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 7 as part of the Santa Fe NAACP Juneteenth Celebration.

Eleven youngsters and 22 adults comprise both the cast and backstage crew. New York professional dancer and recent New Mexico transplant Toni Morgan, fresh from touring with Gladys Knight, will join them as they shimmy through major milestones of African American history, moving from lynchings to the White House.

Director Cathryn McGill wanted to create a show of moving vignettes revealing the horrors as well as the triumphs in lieu of a boring history lesson. Rehearsals were at a summer camp.

"The kids learn about it and can talk about it in a way that's fun," she said.

"We start with Africa, the motherland, and we touch on the Middle Passage," she continued. Millions died during the five-to-six-month voyage.

"They got sick; they weren't fed, so many of them jumped overboard to escape," McGill said. Many of the Negro spirituals people assume are about belief in God contain double meanings, McGill explained. "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" is really about a point where slaves met to make their escape plans along the Underground Railroad.

"It shows how resilient the slaves were and how much people wanted to be free," she said.

A Reconstruction segment includes a McGill-penned song about the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments. The 1863 Emancipation Proclamation didn't end slavery; it only launched a new era, she said.

"There had to be an amendment to say that black people were actual humans and citizens of the U.S.," she explained.

The group addresses the Jim Crow era of "Separate But Equal" segregation with another McGill original called "It Ain't Over Yet."

Guest artists from the hit Broadway musical "Fela" and Adam McKinney, current dance chair at the New Mexico School for the Arts, will join the cast.

If you go

WHAT: "Roots Revival"

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, June 7

WHERE: Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco St., Santa Fe

HOW MUCH: $22.50. Call 505-988-1234 or visit


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Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)

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