‘Araminta’ brought to life by 100 youth and dedicated artists

By Anne E. O’Keefe
Rockford Area Arts Council

“Araminta, The Life of Harriet Tubman,” is much more than a musical about an incredible woman born a slave who led 13 missions to help free others, it is a labor of love created by Darcy Hill. Not unlike Tubman, Hill believed in this project so strongly that she brought others along for the journey including Dorothy Paige-Turner and Richard Raether, who helped with the production and the camp. The musical which will be performed after a two-week, free camp for 100 student in grades third through fifth and is adapted from a commissioned work that Hill did for Keith School over 30 years ago. The piece was originally written as an operetta performed by the students in the late ’80s and now has been reimagined to include dance and poetry. Hill admits that 30 years ago she didn’t know enough about Tubman to fulfill the task of writing an operetta so she and a friend read everything they could about her.

Araminta is Harriet Tubman’s middle name. I felt compelled to look up the meaning, and couldn’t help but be uplifted when I found it is Hebrew for “Lofty.” Tubman’s life story is powerful and inspiring and Hill wants to make sure our youth know of her courage and strength. “I tell my students ‘you must understand the story first and then imagine what music would fit each action, what sounds match the feelings of the story,’’ Hill says.

Hill received the Rockford Area Arts Council Mayor’s Arts Award in 2007 for Star Educator and for Creative Cultural Event in 2012 for her “Rockford Hometown History.” She also created a piece about Frank Lloyd Wright, “On Being Wright,” performed by youth from Rockford Lutheran and area schools. Each project of hers gathers artists from every discipline. In addition to the production dream team, she enlisted the talent of local artist, Steven Gates, for the artwork for the printed materials. Hill’s work has had a tremendous, positive impact on our community over the years.

“We are doing this for all the right reasons, all for the kids, all for their families, all for bringing folks together,” said Hill.

There is a very special performance Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at the Milton House Museum, Milton, WI. The Milton House is one of 41 National Historic Landmarks in Wisconsin and is also nationally recognized as a stop on the Underground Railroad (UGRR) and is still the only UGRR site in Wisconsin that can be toured. After the performance the youth will tour the museum and walk through the very tunnel used by slaves. The additional performances will be held at the Nordlof Center, 118 N. Main, on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission is free.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world,” Harriet Tubman. Many thanks to the dreamers in our community.

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