In the spring of 1968, the sanitation workers of Memphis, Tennessee went on strike. This strike, occasioned both by the tragic deaths of two of their fellow workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, and the desperate need for humane working conditions, began merely as a local matter. And yet, in ways that few could have foreseen, it became a defining moment in the ongoing American struggle toward a more perfect union.
In one respect, this transformation came about because of the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the strike. It was there that he hoped to begin his next great work—the Poor People’s Campaign. It was there that he gave his last great speech—the “Mountaintop Speech.” It was there that he gave his final great sacrifice—his life. The Sanitation Workers’ Strike will always be known as the site of Martin Luther King’s last labor in the struggle.
And yet, in a much more important respect, the transformation of the strike from a local to a national event came not because of what Martin Luther King brought to it, but because of what he found there. And what did he find? He found an extraordinary and utterly distinctive union of the most important themes of the American Civil Rights struggle: the fusion of racial and economic justice, the affirmation of dignity in the midst of dehumanization, the collaboration of the religious and the radical, and the vision of love joined to the work of justice. This incredible union of disparate themes transformed the Sanitation Workers’ Strike into a movement of singular importance—both for its own time, and for ours.
And yet, the story remains largely unknown.
UNION: A Musical, is a celebration of these events, an exploration of these essential themes, and—at a time when we desperately need a vision of how to engage these struggles in our own day—an invitation to the work that the creation of a “more perfect union” requires of us all.
As a part of its development process, UNION: A Musical, will tour select cities across the United States in 2019. These performances will take the form of a “staged reading” and will be followed by a time of audience engagement as to the meaning of the play’s themes and the power of its execution.
In exploring performance opportunities, the Creative Team seeks to offer the following:
● Support | We seek to perform in places where we can provide meaningful support for communities taking meaningful steps to address the themes of the play in their own place.
● Engagement | We seek not simply to perform for audiences, but to engage with audiences about their own experiences of the play and its fundamental themes.
● Collaboration | We seek to collaborate with local leaders, artists, actors, and musicians both in the performance itself and in the community engagement events that attend it.
● Accessibility | We seek to perform this play in venues—and at prices—that ensure that this musical experience is accessible to the entire community.
● Impact | We seek to perform this play in a context that is designed for live theater and that will allow the audience to be maximally engaged by the experience.
TEAM INFORMATION: click on the names below to find out more about this amazing creative team
Kristen Adele, Associate Producer, Co-Director
Amisho Baraka, Associate Producer, Co-Writer
Art Hooker, Producer, Filmmaker
Justin Merrick, Associate Producer, Co-Director
Gregory Thompson, Executive Producer, Co-Writer
Anasa Troutman, Executive Producer