Time for change: Station Hope streams timely festival and dialogue about struggles for equity

Every year for the past six years, Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) has produced Station Hope—a community event celebrating Cleveland’s social justice history and exploring contemporary struggles for freedom and equality.


This year’s seventh annual Station Hope production this Saturday, June 27 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. faces unique challenges in the face of the murder of George Floyd and other violent racial injustices, paired with the challenges of producing the event during the COVID-19 pandemic (the entire event will be live streamed).


Station Hope addresses the current issues and celebrates hope through theater, spoken word, dance, music, and multimedia performances inspired by contemporary issues of freedom and justice.


India Nicole Burton, CPT National New Play Network Producer .This period in history makes Station Hope even more critical right now, say officials.


“We have to work together to move forward,” says Sheffia Randall Dooley, CPT premiere fellow, writer, performer, director, and arts educator. “Station Hope gives us the platform to do that.”


Emcees Adeolomo, India Nicole Burton, and Beth Wood, will broadcast live from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ohio City—Cleveland’s first authenticated Underground Railroad site and a beacon of freedom symbolizing the city’s social justice heritage.


Many of the performances have been prerecorded and will be presented by the emcees.


Burton, who is CPT’s National New Play Network producer in residence, says she thinks the material presented at this year’s Station Hope unites the community and should make viewers think about current events.


“It’s coming together well,” she says. “With COVID-19 and what’s happening in the world with the Black Lives Matter movement, it exposes a lot of things. But it also brought a diverse group of people together. We have each other’s backs.”


This year’s event features both new and returning artists (some of whom have participated in Station Hope all seven years) who in their performances tackle racism, police brutality, immigration, education, human trafficking, gun violence, income inequality, and gender discrimination.


One notable stream on Saturday will feature Burton’s “Panther Women: An Army for the Liberation,” which she wrote and directs.


The drama follows the stories of the lives and experiences of three women who were members of the Black Panther party and Black Liberation Movement.


Also featured are historically based original works that celebrate the people and stories comprising Northeast Ohio’s Underground Railroad history. Station Hope organizers will also share celebrated acts from events of years past.


The streamed performances are quite moving and call for dramatic change, says Caitlin Lewins, CPT’s director of audience engagement and media relations.


“The artists are going to be sharing what’s in their hearts right now, speaking to what they are hearing and seeing today,” she says. “We believe change is made moment to moment, person to person.”

Station Hope 2017 from Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) on Vimeo.


Although most of the Station Hope programming takes place on Saturday, the event kicks off tonight, Wednesday, June 24, with two pop-up livestream presentations.


The stream begins with Twelve Literary Arts hosting a reading by four past and present Barbara Smith Residency writersAdebe DeRando-Adem, Noor Hindi, Jason Harris, Quartez Harris—directed by Twelve Literary Arts executive artistic director Daniel Gray-Kontar.


“Have a Cookie” is based on interviews with Arizona immigration rights lawyer and activist Mo Goldman and presents a Zoom interview about why a mother and son started an immigration rights law practice. The performance is written by CPT premiere fellow Les Hunter and produced by Brian Douglas, who both also act in the video with Lynna Metrisin.


On Friday, June 26 from 7 p.m. to 8:15 p.m., three local leaders who have changed their community through activism in different ways speak about their processes and what called them to activism during a live panel discussion, “Action is Hope.”


“A Modern Matriarch,” is just one play that will be streamed Saturday during the festival.The panelists are Myron P. Edwards, pastor of Grace Community SDA Church; Siaara Freeman, teaching artist for the Center for Arts-Inspired Learning, co-founder of Outsiders Queer Midwest Writers Retreat, and founder and curator of WusGood.Black and the Black Hogwarts Poetry Workshop; and Yvonne Pointer, activist, philanthropist, humanitarian, speaker, and author. The moderator is Twelve Literary Arts’ Gray-Kontar.


CPT fellow Dooley’s play, “A Modern Matriarch,” is just one play that will be streamed Saturday during the festival. “It’s about a new matriarch who calls upon the spirits of her mother, grandmother, great grandmother, and aunts to guide her in this new role as she drives the rest of her family in this new time,” she explains.


Dooley says she wrote a second iteration of the play specifically for Station Hope, to reflect the current state of racial equity and unrest. “I [include] a lot of how I see myself in this new way—a newness of this new role,” Dooley, a mother of tow sons and sister to five brothers. “With the murder of George Floyd and the continuation of our strife, I’m called upon to protect [my sons] and support them.”


With current events, Dooley says she feels the ties to her mother, her grandmother, and even her enslaved great-grandmother, and the challenges they all faced as African Americans in their own times.


The parallels make her reflect on current times. “Now there’s new tension, a sense of urgency or fear that’s pretty close with our ancestors to guide our youth as they navigate,” Dooley says. “There’s a greater sense of urgency and emotion as they’re out there with COVID because they feel they have to do it. How do we support these young people as they continue to fight?”


Telling these stories is what makes Station Hope special to Dooley, though. “That’s the great thing about Station Hope—we can continuously come together to share our different stories,” she says. “We have to work together to move forward. Station Hope give us the power to do that.”


Station Hope is free and open to the public. For an updated streaming schedule, visit CPT’s Station Hope page.

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.