As chairman of the social science department at Kennedy-King College, Ted Williams III is always examining the issues that impact Urban communities. In wondering how to commemorate August 2019, the 400-year anniversary acknowledging the first occurrence of an enslaved African being brought to Virginia, Williams decided on “1619: The Journey of a People.” The 90-minute production, 1619, will premiere on August 24 at Kennedy-King College. A preview will take place from 7 – 9 p.m.on Wednesday, June 19 at Bronzeville Community Clubhouse, 3847 S. Giles Ave.
“I am part academic and part performer, so this is a great sort of melding of the two worlds I exist in,” he said. “Performing Arts has a way of reaching people’s hearts and minds.”
Williams said the goal of the production is to create a visually inspiring experience for the audience. He said it isn’t purely a historical piece alone.
“It looks at the journey of the enslaved person and what does it mean to be American today,” he said. “We’ll look at reparations, the National Anthem protest and racial nomenclature.”
Other issues will include the church, which will be explored through some performance pieces, as well as the liberating ideologies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois. The performance will also examine the Black Lives Matter movement from a contemporary perspective and relationships between Black men and Black women.
Williams said he has a wonderful team of dancers, actors and spoken word artists. He said he wants the piece to move and inspire people. It will feature jazz, gospel and hip hop.
“It should make us hopeful about the future and inspire us to where we can go and be,” he said. “I want people to walk away reminded of the past but inspired toward the future.”
Williams said while he has done a lot of commercial work and theater work. This production is something he is most excited about.
“It’s so much bigger than me. I couldn’t be happier for this opportunity,” he said.
He encouraged people to bring their family to the shows.
“People should come ready to have some fun but [to] really be moved in the spirit,” he said. “It will counter some of the unfortunate narratives we see so much in our neighborhoods.”
Williams said there are a lot of things for Black people to be hopeful about.
“We had some challenges, but we have a brighter future,” he said. “It’s important for us to keep the faith and celebrate the uniqueness of our struggle.”
This article originally appeared in the Chicago Defender.