Maywood, IL...What if civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X had met? What would that meeting have looked like?
Theater-goers will get a chance to imagine that at the performance of The Meeting by Jeff Stetson. The performance will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 21, at the Proviso East High School auditorium as part of District 209’s celebration of Black History Month. Starring noted actors Kevin McIlvaine as Malcolm X and Edward D. Richardson as King, The Meeting is a one-act play set in 1965 in Malcolm’s hotel room in Harlem. The duo debate about how to achieve racial harmony, with King advocating peaceful resistance, and Malcolm pushing for economic independence, human rights, unity and solidarity.
Dr. Roudell Kirkwood, the principal at Proviso West High School, developed the idea for hosting the performance after he was introduced to McIlvaine last year. McIlvaine was appearing at District 209 schools playing the role of abolitionist Frederick Douglass. Kirkwood said that McIlvaine proved to be a hit among students and faculty.
"There was an overwhelming response from the students to bring him back," he said.
The actors portraying the civil rights icons are established performers. McIlvaine has appeared on television, film, and stage, appearing in films such as Purlie and Dreamgirls. He has won a Black Theater Alliance Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play (I Am Who I Am: The Teddy Pendergrass Story), and he is the founder and president of Positive Reinforcement of Youth through Music-Therapy and Education (P.R.Y.M.E.). Richardson is currently with the ETA Creative Arts Foundation, and has appeared in theater productions in Chicago, New Orleans and Montreal.
Dr. Nettie Collins-Hart, superintendent of District 209, said that the performance is a worthwhile and educational endeavor.
"As part of our celebration of Black History Month, it is important to have an opportunity to view our history," she said. "The Meeting is a good way for our students and the community to learn more about those who fought for civil rights, even with different philosophies on how to achieve that goal."
The presentation is free, and open to the public. Mr. Tony Valente, principal at Proviso East, said that he is hopeful that the students and others who attend will take away a message of service to others.
"There’s a better way," he said. "Progress is not founded on violence. Hopefully the learning is going to be about service to others, peace and harmony."
This program is open to parents and the community as a part of our parent and community outreach efforts.
"The tie to the curriculum literacy project is another strength of this project," said Ms. Kim Echols, principal at Proviso Math and Science Academy. "We often speak of students having ‘real world’ experiences. This performance makes history come alive."