For the last three years, The 5th Avenue Theatre has partnered with high schools in Kent to support students as they write and produce a rally sharing the message of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The residency began at Kentridge High School in 2016 and last year expanded to include Kent Meridian High School.
This year marked an unprecedented collaboration between all four high schools in the Kent School District. In the fall, thirteen students representing the four schools came to The 5th for a day-long workshop to build the foundations of the script. This is the kind of artistic support that we provide at the professional level, and it was so thrilling to see these young people rising to that level of expectation as they talked about the messages they wanted to convey. The theme that they zeroed in on was this—we cannot wait until tomorrow to take action, we cannot wait until we are older, or until we are given power. Tomorrow is today. The time to take action is today.
The piece was rich in powerful performances: song, gospel music, drums, and yes, a touch of musical theater. Students shared deeply personal experiences with discrimination—grandparents who were born in Japanese internment camps, immigrant families who came in search of a better life, students coming out and talking about their LGBTQ identities, students struggling with the balance of a bi-racial identity. They spoke plainly and openly.
“Dr. King once said: ‘We begin to die the day we become silent about the things that matter.’ We walk in the halls, we sit in class—we go about our lives. And how many of us are silent about our fears and our pain? How many people have already died? How many people have been lost because those around them failed to help them speak out or because those around them remained silent when it mattered?'”
We are so proud of the powerful and important work these young people did, and are proud to continue to partner with the students in Kent as they fight to make their world a little better every day.