Ebony Voices explores history of the east side

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Four members of Ebony Voices took their pride and knowledge of the east side to libraries across the metro area to celebrate Black History Month.

“We are not just a group of actors or actresses who got hired to do a show; it is a family. We have a real sisterhood, we are a family, and it goes beyond the stage with us,” said Trena Brown, a member of Ebony Voices.

The group, a component of the Rhythmically Speaking theater group, presented five performances of “Pride on the Eastside,” which explores the history of the east side of Oklahoma City.

“It is heart lifting to continue to maintain that memory, the memory of those people,” Brown said.

“When we began to research it, we found so much on the east side that needs to be celebrated,” she said.

Members started their research more than a year ago. They conducted interviews and immersed themselves in the culture of the east side, frequenting staple establishments such as Florence’s Restaurant.

The show included tributes to people who brought change and pride to the east side.

“Our culture thrived and flourished there,” said Sondra McMillon, another member of Ebony Voices.

“It is a loving place, beautiful people, and we are trying to bring back the things we lost,” she said.

The show was performed in front of a canvas backdrop that depicted scenes from the east side.

“We have gone to the east side, we have discovered vendors that we did not know existed. We have just had fun while living through a history lesson,” member DWe Williams said.

‘Research engine’

In June, Ebony Voices group performed for Douglass High School alumni during their 50th reunion, which sparked interest in the east side, Williams said.

“I have experienced the joy of learning little-known facts,” Williams said. “We really are a research engine.”

After the reunion performance, an act was added to the show to highlight newer generations on the east side, Williams said.

“We actually did speak to the class of 1966 … so we have actual facts, throughout the entire show,” member Tierney Palmer said.

Several members of the class of 1966 showed up for this month’s library performances.

The show begins in the 1930s, with the four members acting out what they call a typical Thursday shopping trip on the east side of Oklahoma City.

Scenes in act two are taken from stories of Douglass High School alumni, with the group acting out the last day of high school in 1966.

The final act is set in modern times, with the performers telling others to work hard and do a good job to shine on the east side.

“Pride on the Eastside” will be performed at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Greater Marshall Memorial Baptist Church, 3045 NE 16.

CAPTION: Members of Ebony Voices perform a modern-day scene. [Photo by Eriech Tapia]


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