Spiritual Leaders & Social Justice Warriors Team with New Play for Talkbacks
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 04:37 pm EST 01/11/19

Spiritual Leaders and
Social Justice Warriors
Collaborate with New Civil Rights Play

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

Special NYC Engagement
Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend

Matinee Performances Include Talkbacks with
Author & Activist Lynda Blackmon Lowery,
Riverside Church’s Pastor Amy Butler,
and Civil Rights Activists

Majestic Inspirational Choir of Riverside Church Performs

The community will gather for discussions about the ongoing quest for social justice, civil rights, and voting rights following matinee performances of Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, a play with Gospel music and Freedom songs, about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March, performing in the theater at The Riverside Church of New York. Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 90th birthday and the 3rd annual Women’s March on NYC, Pastor Amy Butler will host talkbacks with the cast and creative team, as well as Riverside Church members who have fought for civil rights nationwide, following the 2pm performances on both Saturday, January 19 and Sunday, January 20. Tickets are priced at $30, and $20 for students and seniors, and can purchased at https://turning15atriverside.eventbrite.com or by calling 212-870-6792. The talkbacks are free for audience members.

The Riverside Church has a storied history as a community center for spiritual education and reflection, but also—perhaps just as prominently—impassioned action for peace and justice. Currently led by Pastor Amy Butler, the church has influenced the country’s political and religious landscapes for decades, welcoming leaders from around the world to speak on important social and political issues. Among his five sermons delivered from the Riverside pulpit, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. notably addressed his “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” sermon to Riverside’s congregation on April 4, 1967—exactly one year prior to his assassination.

Continuing the legacy of activism, Rev. Butler will introduce a Q&A session with author Lynda Blackmon Lowery and the cast of Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom following the January 19 2pm performance. Individuals involved in the Civil Rights Movement across the country will join Lowery, with Pastor Butler as moderator, for a discussion panel after the 2pm performance on January 20. In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the majestic, 55-member Riverside Inspirational Choir will open both matinee performances with a special selection of stirring gospel numbers.

Lynda Blackmon Lowery marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March, taking a stand as the youngest person to make the complete journey to Montgomery, braving brutal attacks and prison to fight for African American voting rights. Her story of growing up in the segregated South, Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, was developed for the stage by Ally Sheedy and is directed by Fracaswell Hyman. The stage adaptation is based on the award-winning memoir by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley and illustrated by PJ Loughran.

Public performances at New York’s Riverside Church (Theatre entrance at 91 Claremont Avenue near 120th St.) are Saturday, January 19 at 2:00pm and 7:00pm and Sunday, January 20 at 2:00pm & 6:00pm. Tickets priced at $30, and $20 for students and seniors, can be purchased at https://turning15atriverside.eventbrite.com or by calling 212-870-6792.

* * * * * *

Lynda Blackmon Lowery began her civil rights activism in Selma, Alabama in the early 1960s, when the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) activists organized Lowery and other area children and teenagers to participate in the Civil Rights Movement. She marched on Bloody Sunday and Turn Around Tuesday, and is the youngest marcher to walk every step of the successful march from Selma to Montgomery. Mrs. Lowery’s early involvement in the struggle against voter suppression was the foundation for her civil and human rights work throughout her life. She retired as Senior Case Manager at Cahaba Mental Health in Selma and is the author of Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley.

Pastor Amy Butler is the seventh Senior Minister and first woman to serve at the helm of The Riverside Church. She holds degrees from Baylor University, the International Baptist Theological Seminary, and Wesley Theological Seminary. Pastor Amy’s professional ministry career began as the director of a homeless shelter for women in New Orleans, Louisiana; she later became Associate Pastor of Membership and Mission at St. Charles Avenue Baptist Church in the city of New Orleans. In 2003, Butler was called to the position of Senior Minister of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown, where she was also the first woman to lead that historic congregation. After 11 years in Washington, D.C., the congregation of The Riverside Church voted to call Pastor Amy to the Senior Minister position. She often talks about what a gift and responsibility it is to be at The Riverside Church, working to live into a legacy of social justice advocacy and gospel community building.

The Riverside Church in the City of New York, led by senior minister Rev. Dr. Amy Butler, is an interdenominational, interracial, international, open, welcoming, and affirming church and congregation. Riverside commits itself to welcome all persons, celebrating the diversity found in a congregation broadly inclusive of persons from different backgrounds. The Church pledges itself to education, reflection, and action for peace and justice, and has been influential on the nation’s religious and political landscapes. The pulpit has welcomed speakers from far and near: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached his famous anti-Vietnam War sermon, “Beyond Vietnam,” from this pulpit; Nelson Mandela addressed the nation during an interfaith celebration welcoming him to America; Marian Wright-Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund spoke about the need to provide quality healthcare to all children; and the well-known Dr. Tony Campolo delivered a sermon concerning affluence in America.

Founded on the belief that the arts can be a transforming power in peoples’ lives, The Riverside Theatre was built inside the historic Riverside Church in 1960. The church’s dedication to radical political action and civil rights are as integral to the theatre as they are to the church. Over the last half century, TRT has presented and provided access to performing artists from all over the world. TRT has always provided a space for the arts to open minds and hearts. They are dedicated to amplifying essential stories and providing equitable access to the voices that tell them—because when you change the stage, you change the world.

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