By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
Judah school of Performing Arts debuted its ‘Journey to Freedom’ production, written and directed by Monica Jones, at Northwest Rankin High School Performing Arts Building (Flowood, Miss.) February 26.
The stellar-performance, sold out production, reflected the brutal treatment of the African-American race during slavery which gave rise to slave revolts, freedom, discrimination and determination. Narration, song, choreography, and oratory were the driving mechanisms of this dramatization.
Journey to Freedom’s fast-paced focus, kept the audience searching for what would happen next. Victor Nelson’s “Cotton Field” song gave rise to a solo choreographic act done by Jackson State University student, Jasmin Jones, who is a health, physical education, and recreation major.
The Negro spiritual “Wade in the Water” ushered choreographic interpretations by Leaps of Faith, Inc. and Judah. Princess Jones, Hinds Community College biology major and graduate, danced to Nina Simone’s song, “Strange Fruit.” Further into the production these two groups did a heart-fetching rendition of “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel.” Hip Hop and lyrical dancers glided across the stage as soloist Jerrica Stimage led the audience and Hinds Community College Chorale (Utica campus) into the song “Oh Freedom.”
During a recording of the legendary James Brown’s “I’m Black and I’m Proud,” the following children, dressed in black and sunglasses, captivated the crowd with their swift, soulful struts: Laila Hayes, Alyson Henson, Arianna Hopson, Heidi Johnson, Macie McClenty, Harmony Ragsdale, Riley Sellers, Kaitlyn Sellers, Sophia Stasher and Ashlynn Walker.
A quiz session occurred during the latter portion of Journey to Freedom. Cast members demonstrated knowledge of their heritage as the question “Do you know your black history?” was raised. Those who participated were: Mario Brown III and Jasmin Jones, instructors; Chesani Banks, Nyla Brown, Chelsey Courtney, Jordan Grifith, Aaryka Handy, Sydney Horton, Saree’ Jackson, Taylor Joyner, Addison Lloyd, Amiah Lloyd, Karizzma Martin, Serenity Martin, MaKayla McCray, Jenniya Milton, Schvaie Moaton, Ni’Sya Stapleon, Shekinah Stapleton, Dwendolyn Taylor, Makya Taylor and Zariah Walker.
The historical context of the African-American legacy was researched, written and co-narrated by Tahlor Riveria, a sophomore creative writing major at Belhaven University and Janice K. Neal-Vincent.
Monica Jones explained that she decided to do Journey to Freedom “to help educate our children about their history…I learned many didn’t know about their ancestors and if we don’t teach and affirm in our children the rich legacy that they come from, then who will? I didn’t just want to pursue a production, but I wanted people to be empowered and inspired from learning about others who paved the way towards our freedom. Together, we experienced the oppressive history, the triumphant and rewarding accomplishments of our ancestors and the pavement of a glorious future for generations to come.”
Jones has been teaching and dancing for seventeen years. “I felt the need to open a performing arts school in the heart of the south Jackson area. Opportunities in the arts are afforded in the northern areas. I wanted the children of south Jackson to have the same opportunity. Our motto is “Reviving Generations through the Arts.” Our children love expression and we want to provide them avenues to do so.”
The director desires to impact and inform the world about the African-American heritage. She claims that should the opportunity present itself, she would love to take the show on the road.
Monica Jones operates with a staff of four: Amber Jones (African Dance, Creative Movement, and Lyrical Dance instructor); Princess Jones (Ballet and Pointe instructor); Jasmin Jones (Hip Hop); and Mario Brown (Hip Hop).
Judah School of Performing Arts is located in the Jackson Square Promenade, 2460 Terry Road, Jackson, Miss 39204.
For inquiries, contact Monica Jones at 601-624-7078.