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Despite protest, 'Mockingbird' opens to crowd

The opening of the Halifax County Little Theatre’s production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” went without a hitch Thursday night despite a protest led by officials of the Halifax County Chapter of the NAACP.

Approximately 75 chanting protesters, led by local NAACP President Rev. Kevin Chandler, staged themselves at the street entrances to the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, loudly yelling “hey hey, ho ho, the ‘n’ word has got to go.”

While the Little Theatre’s production was a success with over 200 in attendance, Chandler called his group’s protest a success as well.

“Throughout the weeks, it has been all about Rev. Chandler and the NAACP,” Chandler said of the controversy.

“The people are actually speaking now.”

Protesters stationed themselves near the front entrance to the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center at about 6:30 p.m. and remained there for more than a half an hour before moving to the stage at Constitution Square.

During a brief gathering at Constitution Square, the group heard remarks from Chandler citing opposition to the use of the “n word.”

“The ‘n’ word is a hurtful word,” Chandler told the group of protesters.

“The ‘n’ word is a dark word. That’s why we’re here right now. In all the darkness, God still shines. We’re not going to let nobody turn us around. They want to bring the ‘n word’ back. What’s next? If they can call you the ‘n word’ in public, they can call you anything else they want to call you. We’re not going to stand for it. We’re not going to let anybody turn us around. Stand up for what is right.”

Following remarks by Chandler and a pair of other local clergymen, the protesters sang a song of unity and bowed for a prayer. Following the assembly at Constitution Square, the protesters again stationed themselves at the entrances to the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center.

South Boston Police kept a high profile with patrol cars circulating around and through the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center facility every two to three minutes.

While other forms of entertainment, including some movies and some forms of modern music are riddled with the “n” word and other facets that are much more denigrating to African-Americans than this production, Chandler and the Halifax County Chapter of the NAACP have singled out the Little Theatre’s production of “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

The play was targeted, Chandler said, because of an alleged refusal by Little Theatre officials to either change the language or not present the play.

“It’s being singled out because, back in February, we said we didn’t want it and they tried to spin it and make it look like it’s a great thing – the best thing to happen to Halifax County,” Chandler explained.

“We’ve always said don’t do it. We buried the word. They were aware that we have buried the word, even from the beginning. We don’t condone the use of it, no matter what. We don’t have to use it, so why do it in a play?

“We don’t want the word used,” Chandler continued.

“That’s where we are now. We have to come together because divided, we will fall. In 2010, there is no need for us to even have to be doing this. But, we have spoken, and they are continuing to speak.”

Meanwhile on opening night in the Chastain Theatre at The Prizery, “To Kill A Mockingbird” Director Mike Freshour welcomed the audience of over 200 including approximately 35 African Americans.

In his opening remarks, he denounced use of the “n” word acknowledging its use in the play, but adding, “We find it abhorrent.”

A disclaimer on language boldly printed on the program states: “This play is a period work and is based on the experience of Harper Lee’s childhood in a small town in Alabama during the 1930s. As written, the book and the play contain the “n” word, a derogatory term that is highly offensive to all persons. Halifax County Little Theatre neither approves of nor condones the use of the “n” word. Moreover, HCLT would ask all people to remember that the use of the word is highly offensive and hurtful to most people and is not a proper or acceptable way to refer to ANYONE for ANY purpose.”

At the conclusion of the play Thursday evening, the cast and crew received a standing ovation from both blacks and whites in attendance.

The play has a total of seven public performances, and the protesters have secured permits to protest at each of the performances.