Trayvon Martin's legacy is coming to a Philadelphia stage
Like many people, the passing of Trayvon Martin deeply affected Rajendra Ramoun Maharaj. He felt that he needed to find a way to put his feelings to good use and started researching the case.
Along with Thomas Soto, who would become his co-writer, Maharaj started to write a self-described “a poetic docu-drama” that is focused on Martin’s life and legacy.
“The Ballad of Trayvon Martin” will premiere this Thursday at the Freedom Theatre on 1346 North Broad Street. Martin was killed by George Zimmerman on February 26, 2012, in Sanford, Fla. The event would become a part of national conversation on race relations (check out AL DÍA's editorials on the tragic incident).
“I said we needed to do something about this and then we started to research the case and looked into how we could present this in a universal way, but also honor the memory of this child who was murdered,” said Maharaj.
Both Maharaj and Soto completed hours of research that included reading many testimonials on the tragic incident and watching online videos that included countless hours of interviews featuring Martin’s parents. From that, Maharaj and Soto developed a profile.
The ballad focuses on Martin’s life and legacy, but it also touches upon the history of young black men being murdered in the U.S., Maharaj added.
“One of the people who appears in the play and guides Trayvon Martin is Emmett Till,” he said. “For many people, this generation, they see Trayvon’s passing as a current Emmett Till situation. I think that really is part of the root of it. Certainly, it will be entertaining but there will be an educational component as well.”
Till was a African-American teenager who was murdered in a racially-motivated killing in the 1950s. The murder would become one of many catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement.
Both Maharaj and Soto knew that they wanted the ballad to focus on Martin’s early life, the tragic event and aftermath, and Martin’s legacy.
To really understand the Trayvon Martin situation, you have to understand the mentality of someone who would want to harm a child, Maharaj added.
“The ballad really dives into George Zimmerman; his parents and brother,” Maharaj said. “I don't think anyone is made a monster. I don’t think George Zimmerman is a monster I think he was a person who felt very powerless and in many ways is a product of a bigger symptom in this country of privilege and racial divide.”
The ballad of Trayvon Martin also speaks to community issues, Maharaj added, and also a natural conversation in terms of race relations and standing your ground. To have the world premier in Philadelphia just seems like the perfect time for these to be showcased, Maharaj said.
“I think the ballad is a reminder that we are more alike than different,” Maharaj said. “I think there is a real message of forgiveness. And hopefully, the theatre can illuminate on both sides African Americans, Caucasians ,Latinos, Asians and people can come together.”
After the premiere on Thursday at 7 p.m., the ballad will play through May 22 at the theatre.