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Halifax County Little Theatre to host forum on race relations

Halifax County Little Theatre will present the play “To Kill a Mockingbird” in mid-November in honor of the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

Over the past 50 years, the novel has been credited with being one of the most influential books of all time, inspiring readers with its themes of justice and injustice, courage in the face of overwhelming opposition, and trying to understand other people by climbing in their skin and walking in it. 

The director of the play, Michael Freshour, and the president of the local branch of the NAACP, Kevin Chandler, have been talking for several months about some of the more sensitive issues concerning the dramatic version of the novel, especially the racial language used in the play. 

Since the novel is set in the 1930s in deep-South Alabama, the language used is part of the time period, and the vernacular that certain characters would have used. 

The main character, Atticus Finch, teaches his children not to use the language that others might use out of ignorance and hatred.  He teaches them to do what is right. 

Out of Freshour and Chandler’s conversations, they realized that it might be interesting and productive to hold a public forum on the racial issues that are brought forth in the play and to discuss these issues openly and honestly. 

As Atticus Finch says in the novel, the “best way to clear the air is to have it all out in the open.”
Chandler, who is also the Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in South Boston, commented on one of his goals for having the forum, saying, “The community must educate each other to the cultural differences that keep them so divided. The history that brought us to today should elevate us to become a closer, more inclusive community.”

On Oct. 25, Little Theatre and the local branch of the NAACP will host a forum, “Reaching Out, Coming Together,” to discuss the importance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” as a great American novel, the changes  seen since its publication,  and the state of race relations in Halifax County, past and present.  This forum will take place at The Prizery at 7 pm. 

A panel discussion, moderated by WHLF-FM General Manager Nick Long, will examine race relations in the novel, how much has changed in the last 50 years,  why change has been so painful in certain areas, and how people today can be positive influences of change in their  communities.

Admission is free, and audience members will be given the opportunity to ask questions or contribute comments following the panel discussion.

The panelists include the Rev. Whitfield Scott of Piney Grove Baptist Church; the Rev. Russell Lee of First Presbyterian Church of South Boston; HCHS English teacher Elizabeth Layne; the Rev. William A. Keen of Traynham Grove Baptist Church;  South Boston Elementary School teacher Margaret Coleman, and Halifax County Little Theatre board member and Carlbrook English teacher Melissa Elmes. 

Those in attendance at the forum will be encouraged to take notes and pose questions to the panelists later in the program. 

In addition, Little Theatre will be hosting an essay contest for local high school students. 

Details of the contest will be available soon to students through their English or history teachers, and information also will be made available on the Little Theatre website at www.hclt.org.