NBTF production shines light on Children’s Crusade of 1963

Performers with LEAP Artists LIVE! during the final showing of “The Movement: An A Cappella Musical” at the National Black Theatre Festival.

NBTF production shines light on Children’s Crusade of 1963
August 09
09:48 2019

When discussing the civil rights movement, oftentimes the same names are brought up: Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X. While these individuals were important to the fight for equal rights, it is equally important that we celebrate individuals who may not be as well known. And with their production of “The Movement: An A Cappella Musical” during the National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF), LEAP Artists LIVE! did just that.

Set in Birmingham, Alabama, the production of “The Movement: An A Cappella Musical,” is inspired by the Children’s Crusade of 1963. In response to unjust laws and unfair treatment and inspired by Dr. Kings’ Letter From Birmingham Jail, on May 2, 1963, thousands of young people started a series of non-violent demonstrations throughout the city of Birmingham.

Although they were sprayed with powerful blasts of water, attacked by dogs, and some even sent to jail, the young people who participated in the march helped make a lasting change in Birmingham and had a major impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

With a mix of original songs, old favorites, and well-choreographed dance moves, the production, written and directed by Kathy D. Harrison, examines the various emotions the young people experienced when deciding whether or not to participate in the crusade.

During the final production of the play on Saturday, August 3, more than a dozen people both young and old showed up to get a brief history lesson from LEAP Artists LIVE! While stretching his legs during intermission, Ronald Johnson said he never heard of Children’s Crusade before hearing about the play and doing a little research. Johnson said despite his lack of knowledge, he felt inspired by their willingness to stand up for what’s right.

“I had never heard of the Children’s Crusade, but it feels good to know kids my age made a difference in the civil rights movement. It lets me know that I can make a difference too,” Johnson said.

Jermaine Tilman, who took his grandson to see the production, echoed Johnson’s sentiments when he spoke with The Chronicle Saturday night shortly after the play ended. Gilman said, “I hope the young people who saw this play took something from this. I hope they understand that their voices are powerful and they can make a difference in this country.”

Following the play, director Kathy Harrison, who is also a member of the cast, thanked everyone in attendance for supporting the play. Although the cast has traveled throughout the country performing the play, Harrison said it was an honor to be featured at the National Black Theatre Festival.

“We are a group of educators who travel around the country performing the play, but we are grateful that we were able to present it here at the National Black Theatre Festival,” Harrison said.

“The Movement: An A Cappella Musical” is a featured work through LEAP, a non-profit arts education organization based in New York. Artists LIVE! is a performance collective comprised of teaching artists who tour the country with performances highlighting social justice themes. The MOVEMENT was also part of the 2015 National Black Theatre Festival and was named the 2019 Best Musical at the New York Theater Festival.

For more information on the production, visit LEAPNYC on Facebook or .

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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