Following the performance of Tears of Soul, Memphis Sanitation Worker, Mr. Cleophus Smith, will provide insight from his experiences in the sanitation worker’s strike in Memphis of 1968 as well as his overall experience in the Civil Rights Movement. His stories range from the marches and strikes in the streets to his dealing with the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. He will be available for Q/A sessions after each performance of the play, sharing his story and his experience.
A vital influence in the play, Mr. Smith describes the motivation for the “I AM A MAN” sign and its origin behind the treatment of Black American workers: “An older man 50 or 60 years old would go into the yard to collect the garbage out of the 50 gallon drums and a little child would come to the door and tell them ‘you dropped that paper, pick that paper up boy’ and the man would go yessuh. At that particular time, Joe Warren and Mr. Beryl went to City Hall to meet with the mayor, Henry Loeb and it was said that when they went into his office, he said, ‘what you boys want?’ Joe Warren told the Mayor, ‘I am not a boy, I AM A MAN’ and that’s where the sign came from because Joe Warren stood up for himself.” Mr. Smith also remembers Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Mountaintop Speech.” Smith was in the assembly that night during the speech at the Mason Temple on the eve of Dr. King’s assassination. Smith remembers the rain and how packed the temple was. The emotions and history of that event present troubled memories that he struggles sharing.
Director and playwright Angela Wilson states that “Cleophus Smith was a major influence during the creation of Tears of Soul. “Through his shared experiences and first-person account of the events that happened in Memphis during this time, I was able to create a production that encapsulated the cultural mindset while striving to inspire change today.”
The play touches on several relevant themes of that time including the Vietnam War and the rise of the Black Power movement. The assembled cast promises to put forth a powerful performance that will expose the realities of 1968 as they bring that era to life. This play and Mr. Smith’s attendance are vital to the continued effort to inspire the conversations needed to ensure the march on the path towards equality for everyone continues.
Mr. Cleophus Smith will be at the Chesapeake Arts Center for a 15-minute discussion after each performance.
There will be 3 shows: April 28th, 2018 at 2:00 p.m., April 28, 2018 at 7:00 p.m. and April 29, 2018 at 4:00 p.m.
Tickets are $25.00 and are available for purchase online at www.theangelwingproject.org.