Rahway, NJ- The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and The City of Rahway will sponsor a poignant tribute to an extraordinary man in Black History at the Union County Performing Arts Center on February 11 at 5:30 PM. Paul Robeson was a Civil Rights Activist who, because of the political atmosphere of the time in which he lived, was not always properly exalted for his work towards equality during his own lifetime. That history changes on the 11th with Call Mr. Robeson. Written, produced, and performed by Tayo Aluko, this free performance preserves and honors Robeson’s memory while teaching audiences that speaking out against injustice is everyone’s responsibility.
Paul Robeson, a New Jersey native, was born in 1898 in Princeton. Robeson became the third African American to earn a scholarship to Rutgers University and proceeded to excel in both academics as well as college football. Robeson would go on to become an actor and star in countless films to international acclaim: Body and Soul (1925), The Emperor Jones (1933), Showboat (1936, in which he sang his famous rendition of “Ol’ Man River”) and many more. It was his performance abilities, especially his singing voice, that Robeson used to speak out against injustice against all races. He sang for Loyalist soldiers fighting the Spanish Civil War and Allied Troops fighting WWII, as well as participated in anti-Nazi events and publicly supported Pan-Africanism. He even criticized one of his own films (his last film), Tales of Manhattan (1942), for the way it disrespectfully portrayed African Americans. Robeson found solace in how other countries treated African Americans during this period, particularly Russia. It was this relationship with Russia that his opponents took advantage of, at a time when McCarthyism ran rampant. Depression at how his own country viewed him took hold of Robeson. He died in 1976 of a stroke.
Tayo Aluko perfectly channels the spirit of Mr. Robeson in this performance. From within him rises a moving, yet firm voice of conviction as he tells audiences the stories from what Robeson’s point of view might have sounded like. He even sings “Ol’ Man River” and other famous Robeson songs with the dignity and respect that the man deserves.
There will be two opening acts. First, the winner of the 2016 Fearless Icon singing competition held at UCPAC late last year: Timothy Walton. Walton will be singing three songs from Porgy and Bess. Next, Rev. Stef and the Jubiliation Choir will perform From the Middle Passage. The choir’s participation in this event will benefit the "Jubilation Education Scholarship Fund." Audience members will be able to make donations on the day of the event, or they can be sent to the choir's P.O. Box. For more information, visit www.jubilationchoir.org.
Admission to this event is free. The performance will be held at the Union County Performing Arts Center, located at 1601 Irving Street in downtown Rahway. The Center is easily accessible to major roads and public transportation. For questions, call the box office at (732) 499-8226.