Living Voices brings history to life

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(Photo by MARY MALONE) Kootenai Elementary fourth-graders were transfixed by Living Voice actor Bob Williams and his interactive performance of African American voices in the American Revolution. A public performance will be held at 7 p.m. tonight in the Heartwood Center.

KOOTENAI — Nearly every fourth-grader in the room raised their hand when asked if they had heard of the American Revolution.

Living Voices actor Bob Williams gave the Kootenai Elementary kids a different kind of history lesson on Thursday, one seen through the eyes of some of the people who lived through the American Revolution. One of those was a young African American man who, at the age of 10, became part of George Washington’s Continental Army, fighting against the British in the Revolutionary War.

“A lot of things happen in war that tear families apart,” Williams explained to the kids before beginning the performance.

In an interactive performance, Williams detailed the story of Peter Freeman who grew up as a free black in Massachusetts in the 1770s.

When the colonial conflict reached Concord, the young man and his family found themselves as the heart of the battle. After being torn apart from his own family, Freeman was one of roughly 5,000 to 8,000 African Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War.

“This one was particularly interesting because it’s a voice that is not heard very often, and a lot of people probably don’t realize how many African Americans did serve in the American Revolution,” said Hannah Combs, arts administrator for the Pend Oreille Arts Council.

This is the third year POAC has hosted the Living Voices event, which will culminate in a public performance tonight at the Heartwood Center. Before the public performance, however, Combs said Living Voices is an important piece for their educational outreach program, Ovations, which brings classes, workshops and performances to Bonner County students. With each public performance they host, Combs said POAC always aims to have an educational workshop or show for the kids. Combs said Living Voices is really about the kids and the experience they get from the performance, as it addresses curriculum that is taught in classrooms in a way that goes beyond reading from a history book.

“It really brings these important stories to life for the kids,” she said. “They tell these stories from characters that are relatable and, often, voices that are under-represented in our traditional history text.”

While the Kootenai kids were the first to see this year’s performance, it was also presented to fifth- and sixth-graders at Farmin-Stidwell on Thursday. Clark Fork High School juniors and seniors, and the junior high kids at the Waldorf School, will see American history brought to life at their school’s today. Combs said this is the first year they have extended the program to so many students, as they have only had the Farmin-Stidwell performances in the past.

The annual event is presented by POAC and sponsored by the Human Rights Task Force, Idaho Humanities Council, and Taylor & Sons Chevrolet.

Tonight’s public performance starts at 7 p.m. in the Heartwood Center, 615 Oak St., Sandpoint. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for youth 18 and under, and can be purchased online at artinsandpoint.org, or in person at Eve’s Leaves, Winter Ridge, the POAC office, or at the door a half-hour before show time. A portion of ticket sales benefits the Ovations program. For information, call the POAC office at 208-263-6139.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.

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