Tomorrow's ROAD (Roots Of the African Diaspora)
Tomorrow's R.O.A.D., founded in early 2009, is a 501(c)(3) organization with a mission of youth empowerment, using programs and activities rooted in the culture, history and heritage of the African Diaspora.
Tomorrow's R.O.A.D. continues the legacy of the Afro-American Children’s Theatre (AACT), which provided performing arts, cultural and historical programs for youth for over 20 years.
Afro-American Children's Theatre: The Legacy Begins
In the late 1970's opportunities for the Charlotte region's young people to experience the cultural heritage of the African diaspora in the United States and beyond were limited. Recognizing this community need, a small group of youth advocates and artists, led by Barbara Turman Ferguson, Karen Jones Meadows, Doris Frazier, and others, envisioned the creation of a unique and innovative vehicle for raising awareness among young people of this rich legacy. Their passion and dedication brought the Afro-American Children's Theatre (AACT) to life in 1981.
AACT's first program was a simple two-week arts and drama summer camp, held on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University. JCSU also served as fiscal agent for program funding provided by a grassroots grant from the Arts and Science Council. The university's staff also provided plenty of encouragement and technical support. From the start, AACT's philosophy and process centered on its young participants: the culminating dramatic presentation in 1981 was an original work crafted entirely by the campers.
Between 1982 and 2002, in venues ranging from Spirit Square to the Neighborhood Theater to the Great Aunt Stella Center, AACT staged all-youth productions highlighting legendary people, places, and events rooted in the African Diaspora. Some of these productions were of scripted works such as The Wiz (1996 and encore presentation in 1997), but even more of them represented the work of young participants, who took on the Harlem Renaissance (When I Think of Harlem, 1989), the life of the great Egyptian pharoah Ramses (Ramses, 1988), the vibrant culture of the Caribbean (AACT Be Jammin', 1991), and many other topics.
An Apple Falls Close to the Tree: Tomorrow's R.O.A.D.
AACT's legacy continues today, through Tomorrow's R.O.A.D.'s programs for young people ages 3-18. In 2009, AACT founder Barbara Turman Ferguson, in response to former AACT Program Director Monica Pettiford's desire to once again stage Black Nativity and the vision of her own daughter-in-law, Reneisha Black Ferguson, to revive and expand on the AACT's Underground Railroad Travel Camp, joined with founding board member Janeen Bryant to organize Tomorrow's R.O.A.D. (Roots Of the African Diaspora).
Tomorrow's R.O.A.D.'s presentation of Black Nativity, in collaboration with Monica Pettiford's Porch Productions, has now become a holiday tradition, and what was originally known as the Underground Railroad Project has now evolved into the CONNECTIONS Youth Leadership Development Program. Both of these programs serve youth of many age levels and a diverse range of racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
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