Performance serves as remembrance for anniversary of the Freedom Riders
by Brett Buckner
Special to The Star
May 06, 2011 | 3452 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It was sometime after Christmas — maybe in early fall — and Robin Bauer, coordinator for the Cheaha Dance Alliance, was preparing for a dance recital for her students. It would be a repeat of what the troupe performed the year before.

But there was something about the scheduled date that promised a conflict. It was set for around May 14, which was the 50th anniversary of the day the Freedom Riders were attacked by members of the KKK, the Greyhound bus engulfed in flames a few miles outside of Anniston. It was an image — that of the burning bus — and an act of racial violence and hatred that continues to live in infamy in Calhoun County and beyond.

Bauer wanted to do something to commemorate the Civil Rights Movement, not only the Freedom Riders but the struggle of a community to overcome its dark past.

“I didn’t want to compete with that,” Bauer says, “I wanted to compliment that, to celebrate how far we’ve come while also acknowledging how far we have to go.”

The result is “A Time to Heal,” which will be performed Monday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at the Anniston Center for Performing Arts at Anniston High School. Act I features performances of students and adults from the community attempting to “showcase both the beauty of individual cultures as well as the magic that happens when they weave together,” according to the press release.

Act II presents “Fire and Freedom” performed by local musicians, singers, dancers and actors, including students from the Anniston after School Arts Program, “conveying a sense of the African American experience, with an artistic representation of the attack on the Freedom Riders’ bus, the piece ends with triumphantly with ‘Oh Happy Day!’” according to the release.

“Fire and Freedom” features an original score by Bauer’s brother, Raymond Horton, an internationally recognized, Indiana-based composer whose works are frequently inspired by the African-American experience, reflect historical research and incorporate traditional songs. Horton’s compositions have been performed by the Louisville Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Louisville Festival Orchestra and the Academy of the Performing Arts at the University of Trinidad and Tobago.

The goal of “A Time to Heal” is to force the Anniston community to face the mistakes of its shared past, learn from those mistakes and move on.

“People have been trying to ignore and bury the past for too long,” Bauer says. “But before we can heal, we’ve got to first bring it to the light. That’s what this performance is all about, getting this entire community — black and white — together in a celebration of diversity and harmony.”

Yet despite her best efforts, Bauer is aware of the whispers that come when a white woman attempts to recreate something from the Civil Rights Era.

“It’s the soul of the oppressor, not the oppressed, that’s at risk,” she says. “I can’t help that this was the vision that was given to me. I think God is colorblind.”

Contact Brett Buckner at brettbuckner@ymail.com

“A time to Heal”

What: An evening of music, dance and drama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Riders.

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

Where: Anniston Performing Arts Center, Anniston High School

How much: Donations accepted
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