A musical patchwork

Play covers black history from slavery through modern times

Posted: Thursday, February 10, 2005

Bridget Easaw always regrets that she was born late in her grandmother's life, and that her grandmother didn't have a chance to make a quilt for her as she had done for her 40 other grandchildren.

Easaw said her grandmother's quilts represented not only the collective memories of her family but also those of the whole black community.

"She made the quilt with family clothes. She worked at people's homes. And she collected neighbors' clothes," said Easaw, 40.

Inspired by her grandmother, Easaw co-wrote the musical "Pieces of Life," which tells the history of black Americans. A picture of one of her grandmother's quilts will be on the cover of the program.

The Voices of Praise choir will present the musical at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 12, at Auke Bay Bible Church. The free event is one of a series of programs celebrating Black History Month.

The musical is about a grandmother telling stories of her life to her grandson through a quilt she is making. Easaw, who wrote the musical with Michelle Monts, will play the grandmother. Anthony Staten, 12, will play the grandson.

The musical starts with the history of slavery and the underground railroad. Part of the past is the history of the Harlem Renaissance, when blacks such as Langston Hughes pioneered in arts, music and literature. The musical also talks about the civil rights movement and the modern-day slavery to alcohol and drugs.

"The stories are from the past, present and future," Easaw said. "We connect the dots with a quilt."

In the play, one piece of the quilt came from the dress of one of the four girls that were killed in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.

Sherry Patterson, director of the play, said each piece represents a struggle and triumph of the grandmother's life. She said she has learned a lot about her people's history through the process.

"It's humbling to see where you came from and that we are not there anymore," said Patterson, 49. "I appreciate all my ancestors. They have endured to get us to where we are today. Without them, there would be no today."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.

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