And better than ever. I stopped by Stages of Freedom recently and found they had enhanced the displays and expanded the inventory — so much more to see, and much of it is for sale (lots of used books, including vintage juveniles). Co-founders Ray Rickman and Robb Dimmick were both on hand to show off new informational panels, portraits, and assorted acquisitions. Seen here is Dimmick, a professional actor and gifted raconteur, elaborating on the wrenching account of “A Good Chair Wasted.”
The organization’s mission is to promote African American history, and what a great job they’ve done with the site’s archives, On the Rhode to Freedom. This is one of my favorite resources. But nothing beats a visit to the museum/shop. Learn about the slave ship The Sally, the history of the Black church in Rhode Island, the protests of the ’60s at Brown, artist Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, the internationally acclaimed opera singer Sissieretta Jones, and that damned chair. And ask Mr. Rickman about the Magee Street sign hanging near the door; the street has since been renamed for Edward and Christiana Bannister due to his efforts.
But Mr. Rickman has more than education on his mind: Proceeds from shop sales go to fund Swim Empowerment, a swimming education program for Black youth who “drown at five times the rate of of white youth.” All children in the Ocean State should know how to swim! Let’s help put an end to these preventable deaths; go here to Donate to Swim Empowerment.
And Mr. Rickman has another project in mind to enhance the museum experience: a couple of interactive media kiosks. Those are not inexpensive. Also, a film about Sissieretta Jones is in the works, as is a statue of Edward Bannister. So head downtown and do some shopping. Or go here to make a donation.
Stages of Freedom, 10 Westminster Street, (directions)
A period silk dress, very like the one on Sissieretta in the small photograph, has been restored.
Display of Black writers.