“I Have a Dream.” You know this famous phrase—even if you weren’t among the half million Americans who gathered to see Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lincoln Memorial in August of 1963. Delivered during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, King’s iconic speech called for civil and economic rights, and to end racism in the United States.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character,” King told the crowd of civil rights supporters. “I have a dream today!”
Fifty-seven years and the Black Lives Matter movement later, America still struggles with racial inequality. While advances have been made, continued imbalances in the distribution of power, economic resources, and opportunities for minority groups can no longer be swept under the rug.
Chicago Children’s Theatre and more than 30 other Theaters for Young Audiences (TYA) nationwide are encouraging families to discuss today’s racism by streaming “A Kids Play About Racism” free of charge.
Based on Jelani Memory’s “A Kids Book About Racism,” the virtual premiere is produced by Bay Area Children’s Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, and Alliance Theatre, in partnership with many other theaters in the United States.
“I jumped at the opportunity to adapt Jelani Memory’s book…into a theatrical piece for young audiences simply because it meant we were recognizing the importance of including children in these difficult conversations,” says Khalia Davis, the play’s director.
The TYA artist also adapted the work, which will be brought to life by an entirely Black and BIPOC cast and creative team from across the country.
“When I wrote ‘A Kids Book About Racism,’ I wrote it for my own kids. I never could have imagined it would have spread so far and wide to thousands of kids all over the world, or turned into a nationwide theatrical event,” explains Memory. “I am thrilled to see what Khalia and these other amazing artists create.”
In addition to costume design by Ron McCann, the online performance features music by Justin Ellington, and is performed by Davied Morales, Angel Adedokun, Moses Goods, Rapheal Hamilton, Isaiah Harris, Jessenia Ingram, and Regan Sims.
“This show embraces the full spectrum of emotional response children may have as they navigate comprehending racism and how it may affect them,” adds Davis.
As such, educational materials developed by Seattle Children’s Theatre in collaboration with the Northwest African American Museum will extend the experience and enhance age-appropriate engagement.
“A Kids Play About Racism” premieres on August 1 and 2 for free via Broadway On Demand at get.broadwayondemand.com. To learn more about Chicago Children’s Theatre, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org. For information on TYA, visit tyausa.org.
Top image: “A Kids Book About Racism” written by entrepreneur Jelani Memory and published by Kids Book About, Inc.; copyright 2019. The book can be ordered at akidsbookabout.com.
Middle image: The bicoastal multidisciplinary artist and “A Kids Play About Racism” adapter and director Khalia Davis; photo courtesy of khaliadavis.com.