Long Branch Arts and Cultural Center celebrated Black History Month with a performance by Lorraine Stone who has a career in African American stage plays and immersive storytelling.  Dressed as a 19th century slave, Ms. Stone enacted the life of Harriet Tubman from birth to death, providing colorful details of her early years as a “knee baby” on a plantation, her escape from captivity at 27 years old and her work on the underground railroad: a series of trails and safe houses leading other enslaved people to freedom in Philadelphia and New York.   

Ms. Stone captivated the diverse audience in attendance with her original script and storytelling skills.  Ms. Stone embodies Tubman and brings her to life with authentic feelings and emotions that kept the audience glued to their seats for the full 45-minute show. 

A rapt audience meets Harriet Tubman Credit: Brenda Hamlet

Following the performance, audience members asked Ms. Stone many questions about the life and times of Harriet Tubman.  Tubman’s birth name was Araminta “Minty” Ross, which she later changed to avoid slave trackers.  Tubman was married twice, but did not have any children of her own. She is thought to have rescued 70 people, but some put the number much higher. 

Ms. Stone is an Asbury Park native, who attended Neptune High School and Hampton University, VA.  She is a founding member of the Asbury Park Reporter. She first began performing as a young girl.

Several of the Churches in Asbury asked her to perform poetry readings at church functions. The current Wisdomkeeper series, featuring notable African American women from history, was created almost twenty years ago.  Those immersive storytelling performances include Sojourner Truth (an American abolitionist and activist for African-American civil rights and women’s rights); Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (an American investigative journalist, educator, and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People); Mary Browser (a Union spy in the Confederate White House during the American Civil War); Elizabeth Jennings Graham (a civil rights activist who sued and won against discriminatory practices of NYC trolley drivers); and Rosa Parks (best known for her role in the Montgomery bus boycott).

“The work that I do,” says Ms. Stone, “is so very important, and there is not a lot of Black History being taught in schools. I am really glad to be able to share this information, because Afro-American history is American history.”

Brenda Hamlet is a journalist covering trends in the media and arts. Brenda lives in Asbury Park and teaches writing at Kean University. Her contributions will focus on the state of the Arts in Asbury Park.

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