Chimes of Freedom

As the fiftieth anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee — a milestone in the history of the civil rights movement in America — approached, Denver playwright, director and filmmaker donnie l. betts was searching for a way to mark the date on the local level, but it wasn’t until he met with Vincent Harding and the Veterans of Hope (a project uniting elders of the movement) that his plan began to gel into Destination Freedom Week, three nights of film and live radio plays inspired by human rights issues and people.

“It’s an ambitious project for me, and I'm basically a team of one. But I think it’s worthwhile,” betts says of the series, which kicks off tonight with a screening of the film Neshoba, a documentary exploring the Mississippi town of Philadelphia, where civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and James Schwerner were murdered in the 1960s; the film follows Edgar Ray Killen, the Ku Klux Klansman charged with the murders more than forty years later, through his 2005 trial and includes modern-day interviews with players on both sides.

The following two nights will feature Education of a Harvard Guy, an original radio play by betts, inspired by Richard Durham’s 1940s radio biographies of important figures in African-American culture, that tells the story of former SNCC worker John Perdew. This full-blown event will include a discussion led by Harding, Perdew and others, as well as songs of the movement sung by original freedom singer Rutha Harris and locals René Marie, Lionel Young and the Spirituals Project. Things switch gears a bit on April 9, the final evening, when betts presents the Durham play Toussaint L’Ouverture, about the leader of the Haitian Revolution, as a Haiti earthquake benefit.

All events begin at 7 p.m. at the Crossroads Theater, 2590 Washington Street; nightly admission ranges from $14 for the film to $22 for the radio plays, and will benefit the Spirituals Project, Veterans of Hope Project and the Lambi Fund. Call 720-748-1388 for tickets and information.
April 7-10, 7 p.m., 2010

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd