The Martin Luther King Day performance of “Letters to Dr. King,” put on by Collision Project at the Alliance Theatre on Jan. 21, featured 12 passionate Atlanta teens, eager to show everyone “there is a place for art in activism.” Each actor shared their culture through song and what meal they would want to share with Dr. King, then moved on to their individual messages to him. There were apologies embedded in each letter, while still radiating hope and optimism. They apologized for this generation, and for those who came before who didn’t do everything they could to carry on his message. During the Civil Rights Movement, the teens of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) followed Dr. King on his journey to make the world a better place, and now in 2019, these teens are trying to do the same. Their message (art hand-in-hand with activism), leads others to realize the importance of youth in activism.
Youth often pose a different perspective than adults on issues going on in the world. With less experience, comes a more idealistic view, with less barriers in mind. For example, the March For Our Lives movement in 2018 was really important in bringing awareness to the issues with gun control in America. There have been mass shootings for years, but the younger generations finally took action, when others wouldn’t. Teenagers in the SNCC advocated for equality in the 1950s-1960s, and today’s teenagers are continuing to do so, on what would have been MLK’s 90th birthday. It was eye-opening to see younger generations making a change, because it shows others they have the same opportunities to share their voices and make a difference.
The play was full of original songs, flooded with emotion. Tyler Bey, a junior involved in theatre, singing, and journalism, wrote a song called “Freedom Land March.” It was about losing hope using non-violent techniques. You could tell this song caught the audience’s attention by their gasps after every line Bey sang. The emotional intensity really helped get his message across, and his passion had every person in the theater engaged.
Spencer Ford, an actor and singer/songwriter, played bass and sang about how brutal the world can be today. He used vultures as a symbol for those in power and others who are not helping carry out the dream for equality saying: “vultures flying, above my head. I guess that means that one of us is already dead.” Ford wants everyone to know “their voice matters,” and no one should lose hope. He’s a strong advocate for art in activism, and contributed to it himself, by sharing his messages through song.
The Collision Project’s “Letters to Dr. King,” performance at the Alliance Theatre, showcased teens advocating for activism and encouraging others like them to use their creative side to make a change. The performance was incredibly moving and powerful. The group of teenage actors presented a point of view and a passion that is hard to find from others today. The show left the audience inspired, and ready to make a difference.
Sophie James, a 15 year-old student at Decatur High School, has never had chicken wings, but is still living her best life.