Remembering: Four little Birmingham girls
Chelsea Jones | 9/30/2013, 8:11 a.m.
The Dallas Examiner
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the deaths of Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, following the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963, actors performed a staged reading of Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963 at the Clarence Muse Café Theater on Sept. 15.
The Black Academy of Arts and Letters, in partnership with Project 1 Voice, presented the show. The event was a part of a day of commemorative activities that included a church service, dinner and a concert at First Baptist Church, the releasing of doves and a motorcade.
In the play, playwright Christina Ham focused on the lives of Denise, 11, Carole, 14, Cynthia, 14, and Addie Mae, 14, and portrays them as multi-talented girls full of hope and dreams despite the harsh reality of racism.
Actor and director Akin Babatunde, who coordinated the staged reading, narrated and started the play by reciting the play’s setting, which is September 1963 at the church and in and around Birmingham.
He named events that have taken place so far during the Civil Rights Movement, such as the death of civil rights activist Medgar Evers, mobs by the Ku Klux Klan, marches, lunch counter sit-ins and demonstrators being hosed down with water hoses, attacked by police dogs, arrested and put in jail.
Afterwards, the rest of the cast walked on stage. The actors playing the four girls were dressed in all white.
One group of actors called the “ensemble” were dressed in all black and acted as a Greek chorus. They declared that the girls’ identities have been forgotten through the years, and that the play would examine the possible lives the girls may have led if they were not killed and were able to follow their dreams.
Denise dreamed of becoming a pediatrician, and Carole looked forward to the dress she will one day wear at the cotillion. Cynthia envisioned her life as a novelist and mathematics professor at the University of Alabama, and Addie Mae foresaw a career as a baseball player and painter.
Furthermore, the girls learned about Black history and became aware of the mission of the Civil Rights Movement. They wanted to know more and perhaps get involved. However, their parents, in an effort to protect them, refuse to tell them much about the movement and wouldn’t let them participate.
Throughout the play, the ensemble portrayed the girls’ family and friends, and used a Southern, White accent to protray racist White characters. Cast members also sang a number of Negro spirituals, including Wade in the Water, Amazing Grace, Oh Freedom, Blessed Assurance, How I Got Over and We’re Marching to Zion.
Highlighting the girls’ youth and innocence as they prepared for church, the girls talk about having to get dressed Sunday mornings, having to sit up straight in the pews, and having to usher.
The Sunday of the bombing was Youth Day. The girls are in the basement fixing their dresses when the bomb detonates, killing them and injuring 22 others.