NEW YORK CITY -- 55 years ago, in the spring of 1965, Lynda Blackmon Lowery was the youngest civil rights marcher to walk with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery. She was jailed nine times before her 15th birthday. She was beaten by police and needed 29 stitches in her head. Nevertheless, she marched on.
On January 18, 2020, Lowery relived that experience. But this was no traumatic flashback. Instead, she watched her life story unfold on stage in the play "Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom," based on the book of the same name that Lowery wrote about her experience.
"I wanted people to know what happened," Lowery says. "Those ugly things affected a lot of people's lives."
The show is a musical dynamo filled with original gospel and freedom songs sung by a stellar cast of vibrant young performers.
Queade Norah takes on the role of 15-year-old Lynda as she leaves home to march for voting rights, and after she's attacked, "to show George Wallace what he did to me."
"It took me a minute to want to commit to playing Lynda," Norah says. "I knew that to do it you have to have a certain type of strength to grasp the gravity of the story."
Lowery and Norah have formed a tight bond since performances began last year. The duo, representing the past and the future, both see a reflection of Lynda's experience in our current struggles.
"If you look at what's happening today, it's not that different than what was happening in '65," Lowery says. "Voter suppression, women's health issues, gun laws. Our children, they are back on the battlefield, non-violently. Everybody has to get involved."
"It's heartbreaking that there still has to be a group of young people fighting for things that should have been resolved a long time ago," Norah says. "I can take this stage to tell a story to inspire that it's possible and that we do still have a fire inside us to make sure we're continuing a legacy that started before us."
Meet the youngest marcher to walk with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery