How have I never heard of Abraham Galloway before?
Why weren’t we taught about him in school?
Who else have we never heard of but should have?
These were the primary reactions I heard from people who were able to attend either the
Fire of Freedom performance by Mike Wiley and Mary D. Williams, or the discussion with historian and author David Cecelski, or both. Yes, we must continue to ask these questions and make sure that all history is taught. We must continue to learn historical truths, sit with them, and learn to move on from them, changed by what we now know.
Mike Wiley and Mary D. Williams were incredible - his physical embodiment of the character and her added vocals made Abraham Galloway come alive.
I’ve seen videos of Mike Wiley, and enjoyed them, but seeing him in person was a completely different experience.
As much as I loved the performance, I liked the question and answer portion as much or better.
Yes, these performers are amazing, and I do hope that we will continue to follow their work and learn from them. To hear how Mike prepares and gets into character for his draining roles (sometimes he performs more than 30 roles in his one-man shows!) and receives energy back during the Q&A sessions with the audience was interesting. He truly does have a calling to do this work, as Mary pointed out. His reminder to us to spend time during our Wilmington Pilgrimage to soak in the history of the sacred spaces and remember what happened there was extremely important. As Mary has said “Music can be heard when speech cannot.” Her songs certainly exemplified that. David did not use a single slide or audiovisual in his lecture to us (well, unless you count his left arm being shaped into eastern NC and the coast), but we were spellbound as he told us about his growing weird Abraham Galloway stories file.
However, the most powerful reflection of the weekend that I’ve heard from several people and experienced myself was not about the performers, the play, the music, Abraham Galloway, or the lecture. The most powerful reflection was the energy felt in the sanctuary on Saturday night. No, it wasn’t a worship service, but sitting in our sanctuary filled with people of all different skin colors and of all different religious backgrounds to observe this play sure felt like a worship experience. Maybe that was the Sabbatical Spirit taking hold of us and sending us out with joy!