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UCR Celebrates MLK Day with Play About Freedom

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Straight From Tha Underground, a play by UCR playwriting professor Rickerby Hinds will serve as the centerpiece for this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration o­n campus.

STRAIGHT FROM THA UNDERGROUND follows the journey of B-BOY, a hip hop head from Compton, CA who falls back in time through a hole made during the construction of o­ne railroad (the Metro Rail). He soon finds himself o­n another train o­n the Underground Railroad running for his life along with five other formerly enslaved Negroes. o­n their journey to freedom, they learn many things from B BOY including reading and writing, which he teaches them using whatever he can find including: his rhymes, speeches by Abraham Lincoln and even School House Rock's "Conjunction Junction."

B-BOY also tries to convice his fellow travelers that "Folks get paid to play sports" where he comes from. However the most valuable lesson o­n this journey is the o­ne that Harriet, Beck, Gideon, Uncle John and Rachel teach him and that is that freedom must be valued because of high cost of attaining it.

This is the first time Straight From Tha Underground is being performed at UCR although an excerpt was performed two years ago at CaliFest, the annual hip hop theatre festival at UCR curated by Hinds. Straight From Tha Underground was written in 1997 and has been peformed in several venues across the country including Memphis, TN, Cincinnati, OH; Loma Linda, Riverside and San Bernardino, CA.

The play was also recently afforded the unique honor of being  named an official "Network To Freedom Site" by the National Parks Service in 2005. This award which is usually reserved for Underground Railroad locations, was awarded to Straight From Tha Underground because of its unique and creative exploration of the Underground Railroad and slavery.

The journey of the play is accentuated by the singing of traditional Negro sprirituals by a group assembled for the production from the Riverside and Los Angeles areas culminating with a blending of the two musical forms: The Negro Spiritual and Hip Hop.

"I am extremely excited about this production of Straight From Tha Underground, not o­nly because of the production itself, but because this performance in the University Theatre, in a way, brings me full circle because this is the site of my very first play, The First Day of The Rest of Your Life, back in 1987 while a student here at UCR. That play was also performed in celebration o­n Martin Luther King Day," said Professor Hinds.

The cast of 8 actors include members from the Riverside community as well as UCR students. Hinds saw the production of this play as an opportunity to continue his personal efforts as well as the university's desire to continue to bridge the gap between the city of Riverside and UCR and of course he believes that the arts are a great point of departure in this quest.

Straight From Tha Underground will premiere o­n January 15, 7pm at UCR in the University Theatre. Tickets are $12 General / $8 Students.

Hinds also made it clear that no o­ne who shows up for this performance will be turned away, as long as there is room.

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