ROXBURY, MA. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, Madison Park Development Corporation commissioned a summer teen performance on the history of Roxbury since the 1960s. Dillon Bustin, Artistic Director for MPDC’s Hibernian Hall, has turned to Ron Jones to script and direct this project.
Ron Jones, Executive Director of the non-profit organization Dialogues on Diversity, is an actor and playwright with extensive experience working with high-school and college-age youth. Dialogues on Diversity uses theatrical models to promote understanding about cultural sensitivity and social justice.
Jones had already performed at Hibernian Hall in July 2015, presenting his one-man show “The Movement: Fifty Years of Love and Struggle,” in which he portrays several characters to tell the story of the quest for equal rights in the United States.
After accepting the opportunity, Jones did extensive background research and conducted numerous interviews with residents of Roxbury during the winter and spring of 2016. In June Jones invited students at Boston Arts Academy to audition for the theatrical production. He also hired songwriter Mike Boston to help with lyrics and music. After recruiting a few more experienced actors to fill out the cast of nine, Jones began rehearsals at Hibernian Hall on July 5 to prepare for performances August 18-20.
As the scenes, rap poetry, monologues and historic images began to come together during the early weeks of rehearsal, Jones named the piece “Roxbury Strong: A Story of Emergence.”
The free performances will be Thursday, August 18, at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm, and again on Saturday, August 20, at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm.
Statement by Ron Jones, Visiting Playwright
We know that the public narrative of the neighborhood known as Roxbury is often a one-sided and negative one–stories of a Black community plagued with violence, drugs and decay. This narrative has led to a skewed perception by those outside the community, and also for some within it. The misperception can lead to a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy that works against the community’s own interest.
The truth is that Roxbury is one of the most vibrant and thriving areas in all of Boston. It has a history made by immigrants of every race and cultural persuasion. It has become the anchor of the African-American population, yet it still boasts a broad cross-section that exemplifies the diversity of the city.
Though it does face some unique challenges, most of which are a by-product of years of institutional bias or neglect, this area has only grown in cultural and economic strength. Roxbury is the story of a community living with amazing grace under sometimes outrageous pressures. It is an inspiring story that needs to be known by all.
“Roxbury Strong: A Story of Emergence” will inspire those in and out of the community. We hope the work will help de-stigmatize this Boston neighborhood. Additionally, we hope that the young people who take part in creating this piece will gain a greater sense of the resiliency found in their neighborhood. We aspire to make them the next generation of ambassadors who will share their vision of Roxbury within and beyond its borders.
Dillon Bustin, Artistic Director
Madison Park Development Corporation
184 Dudley Street, #102
Roxbury, MA 02119
About Madison Park Development Corporation
Madison Park Development Corporation (MPDC) was founded in 1966 when a group of community activists said no to the threatened destruction of their neighborhood. Over the past 50 years, MPDC has become a champion in revitalizing Lower Roxbury and saying yes to resident-led development and community empowerment. MPDC’s mission is to support a vibrant, healthy Roxbury neighborhood that supports the well-being and advancement of the community. Visit www.madison-park.org to learn more.