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Local playwright brings ‘Freedom’s Song’ to Merced Theatre

Come and experience a dramatic as well as musical look at history through the story of George Washington Turner and his family facing slavery and managing extreme racism in early America, with the play “Freedom’s Song,” written and directed by Kim McMillon of Merced.

The show will be taking place this Sunday, June 25, 5 p.m., at the Merced Theatre, (301 W. Main St.). Admission is FREE.

As the title of the play implies, music plays a large part in the telling of this story. Not only will you hear music written by McMillon, but you will also be treated to a list of well-known gospel hits, such as “Swing Low,” “Wade in the Water,” “Precious Lord,” and more. “A part of this may feel like you are going to church, but another part of it will be you seeing a family struggle, and triumph over very difficult circumstances.” As was described by director McMillon.

Freedom’s Song is based on research done by Dr. Dale Allender, who spent a great deal of time collecting information regarding, and surrounding, his family history. This history was full of remarkable events that showed the extreme lengths that some faced to live a better life in spite of slavery and existing in a society designed to keep them down. Dr. Allender is currently a teacher at Sacramento State University and has longtime aspirations of turning this research into a film.

While the story is focused on the experiences of a black man who faced slavery, the themes at play are broader than the individual level. When speaking with the Times about the most important aspects of the play, she talked about the importance of teachers and education, as well as women, all of whom are too often downplayed or outright ignored.

We want our culture to be seen and heard,” Director McMillon told the Times. “It often gets pushed to the back of the wall or gets rewritten by others. And so, this is an opportunity for us to have our voice.”

The following is one of McMillon’s favorite segments from the show: “God is always at the helm. He brought me back to sing my family’s Freedom Song. That’s right! Their Freedom Song. The song is in the body of anyone enslaved or oppressed. It is the song given to that soul at birth, so they know they were born free. No matter what happens, they are born free. Black people are almost always born with a Freedom Song just in case they start believing they aren’t as beautiful as God made them. When you live in a society that judges by the color of your skin, you are bound to have strange thoughts sometimes.”

Something that makes this show extra accessible as well as special, is that the runtime is around 75 minutes, which has given the production the time to hold an hour-long talkback following the performance. This will be a time where audience members can ask questions, interact with the crew, and ultimately learn more about the incredible history behind the story from those involved.

The Freedom’s Song cast features a diversity of local talent:

G.B. Blackmon III as George Washington Turner and Pastor Allen, Michelle Allison as Martha Fletcher (Turner), Necola Adams as Mary C. Turner, Cheryl Lockett as Olive Fletcher, Loretta Spence as Martha Turner Gunn and Aunt Martha, Necola Adams as Julia Webb Thomas, Jeshamon Volkerts as Henry Thomas and Dr. James Harriston Gunn, and Cheryl Lockett as Kae Turner.

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