Madison Heights library to host performance by Ebony Road Players

Adult evening book club launching

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 21, 2018

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MADISON HEIGHTS — In the play “The Meeting,” civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. have a conversation. And on Feb. 22 at the Madison Heights Public Library, scenes from the play will be performed by the Ebony Road Players in recognition of Black History Month.  

“It’s an imaginary conversation between Malcolm X and Martin Luther King (Jr.),” said Sally Arrivee, head of adult services at the MHPL, of the play. “In real life, they never met each other.” 

The Ebony Road Players are a Grand Rapids-based theater group recommended by the Michigan Humanities Council. The performance will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22. The library is located at 240 W. 13 Mile Road.

The event also ties into the library’s participation in The Great Michigan Read, a biennial statewide library program focused on humanities themes. 

“It aims to connect us as Michiganians by deepening our understanding of our state, our society and our history,” said Roslyn Yerman, the library director. 

The Great Michigan Read is coordinated by the Michigan Humanities Council, and the 2018 title is “X,” a novel by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, about the troubled youth of Malcolm X.

Shabazz, one of the authors, is the daughter of Malcolm X. She was 3 when her father was assassinated. Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska; his family later moved to Lansing, where his father died under suspicious circumstances and his mother was committed to a mental hospital. 

“The book switches back and forth between (Malcolm’s) years as a promising student in Lansing and his later teen years in Roxbury, Massachusetts, and Harlem, New York, where his petty crime turned into a prison sentence,” Arrivee said. “Malcolm’s siblings introduced him to Islam, and his conversion came while he was in prison.” 

“I think that the book was very powerful,” she added. “Essentially, it’s about choices — good ones and bad ones. As a book written for the teenage set, I think it really shows how choices can shape who we are and what we become. Do we keep repeating them and hope for a different outcome, or do we learn to make a better choice the next time a similar opportunity happens?”

She said the book also covers the earliest years of the civil rights movement. Malcolm’s father, Earl, was a very proud black man who was active in Lansing’s new chapter of Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. 

“As a child of the 1960s, Malcolm X was portrayed more often than not as a very threatening figure to all white people,” Arrivee said. “This book gives a very different view of Malcolm X, and one that I’d like to explore a bit more.”

The library is also launching an adult evening book club, starting Monday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. Other dates include April 23, June 25, Aug. 27 and Oct. 22. Each is the last Monday of the month, and the club will meet in the library’s Breckenridge Room at 7 p.m. 

One book the group will read in the coming months is “In Order to Live,” by Yeonmi Park, about a girl’s escape from North Korea with her mother. Another book is “Frog,” by Mo Yan, about the clash between China’s new family planning policy and the deeply rooted social values of the rural Chinese. Other books planned for the club include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot, and “The Paying Guests,” by Sarah Waters. 

The library also holds a senior citizen book club, which meets at 1 p.m. on Mondays. A young adult book club is currently being developed. For more information, call the library at (248) 588-7763.