“Migration,” Makes its Premier Run at etaCreative Arts Foundation


Migration, the Play Makes its Premier Run at etaCreative Arts Foundation

Migration by playwright Michael Bradford makes its premier run in Chicago at eta Creative arts Foundation 


By Kai EL’ Zabar

Slavery, Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow bedrock the largest migration of African Americans from the south. From 1910-1930 Chicago tenements swelled as men and women heeded the call of Robert Abbott, publisher of the Chicago Defender, to come to the land of “milk and honey”. Jazz musician Noble Johnson and aspiring writer Lillian Stride marry, head north to begin a strivers life and bear witness to the opportunities and disappointments borne of this new freedom. The push and shove of city living, airless apartments, hot pavements, and ‘mindful’ segregation shape a new experience southern blacks find vaguely reminisce of the south. July 1919 a Black boy accidently swims into the white area of 29th Street beach; whites stone him and he drowns. A riot erupts on the streets of Chicago with tragic ramifications for Noble and Lillian. Like Margaret Wilkinsons’ “The Warmth of Other Suns,” Michael Bradford provides an intimate experience of the Great Migration. Through an intricate layering of music, dialogue and movement, “MIGRATION” shows the historical journey of the great generation of African Americans.


Kemati Porter, Producing Artistic Director at eta Creative Arts Foundation is the director of "Migration."
Kemati Porter, Producing Artistic Director at eta Creative Arts Foundation is the director of “Migration.”

Migration does not take you on a journey from 1916 through the 70’s but rather takes a slice of the Great Migration giving you and inside glimpse  of who the men and women were that inspired with passion and vision to make an exodus from the South to begin anew in the North. Thought to be the land of milk and honey Blacks packed what little belongings they had and boarded the train from their southern homes to the north. The setting of Migration starts in Mississippi from which Noble and Lillian leave purchasing train tickets for $22.50 each to Chicago where their vision of a future exist. But we soon discover that the real journey is here, the journey within.

Director Kemati Janice Porter says that,  “Migration has been in the works for eight years and that it was just a matter of time before  she and Michael Bradford, the playwright  would come together to collaborate.” As fate would have it, the project came together the very year the Migration celebrates its 100 year anniversary this year May 2016. The timing could n’t be more perfect for such an important piece.

Michael Bradford, says that he was inspired to write Migration when the word  came to his him as  a theme to write about. It never occurred to him that it would be the Great Migration of  African Americans who settled the urban cities of the North creating the urbane. But it was his visit to Museum of Arts’s One- Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series  and other Visions of the Great Movement North  exhibition  produced in collaboration  Harlem’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture that pushed his vision to center around the movement that was an act of defiance and proclamation by  a freed people who were still shackled by the racist oppression in the South. 

Friday evening’s performance showcased a brilliantly written story of  The Race taking their lives into their own hands seeking self determination based on their spiritual grounding in faith. A female character says at one point in the play, “We don’t guarantees just possibilities.”  And that sums up what Blacks have sought since their enslavement in America. 

The young cast is perfectly casted each character coming to life as the actors reveal the dreams, experiences, pain, suffering, joy and laughter of their lives lived telling the story with the excitement and exuberance of youth. Veteran actor Donn Harper as Royal/CM and Colin K. Jones as Rev Stride  bring a certain richness to the fabric of the story carefully weaving the textures of sweet tenderness of youth with the wisdom of time and experience presenting a beautifully told story of love.

The Cast is:

Actor Name Role
Adrian Weaver Abbott/CM
Ambria M. Sylvain Peaches/CM
Asia Jackson Mary/CM
Colin K. Jones Stride/CM
Demetra Drayton Lillian Stride
Donald Conley Hockley/Porter/CM
Donn Harper Royal/Porter/CM
Ekia Thomas Mildred/CM
Kai A. Ealy Noble Johnson

The backdrop of the story is a simple set relying on the strong acting of the actors who reach deeply to bring the emotions, hopes and dreams of people full of  passion and desire to simply be and live full lives.
I give Migration a thumbs up and highly recommend that you  go see it. It’s perfect for a romantic date, or family outing, school trip, church groups or any other reason to go. It will certainly provide insight into the people who left the oppressive South only to find that “Up North they  ask for  for the breath in your body  the same as they do in the South.”

The play will run through June at eta Creative Arts Foundation located at 7558 S South Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60619

for more information call (773) 752-3955 or click on a date to purchase your tickets.

Below is a listing of  show dates.              

Migration by Michael Bradford (Apr 29 – Jun 19, 2016)


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