Earlier today I had the privilege of attending "Adrift on the Mississippi," a play that explores the oppression of blacks and the escape of some by the Mississippi River. The St. Paul Pioneer Press, in an article on February 10, summarized it this way, "The runaway slave who would go on to found Minnesota's first black Baptist church fled Missouri and paddled against the current up the Mississippi River, praying that he and his fellow runaways would not be captured or killed on their way to freedom."
The first act of the play begins with a scene of whites abusing slaves, specifically the local preacher, Robert Hickman. Robert receives 39 lashes for being out at night without a "pass." After this, Robert has the opportunity to join the army as contraband in order to escape this abuse. Robert meets up with another man in the same position as well as a family consisting of a husband, wife, and an older woman. Robert has left his wife there and these people get on a raft to travel upriver to freedom in the North. The second act is set on the raft as this group of people battles the river and endures plenty of conflicts with each other. Eventually, some gracious white people offer to pull them along. They eventually reach Minnesota and the story ends with Rev. Hickman going back to Missouri to bring his wife back to Minnesota.
Last semester, the Honor's class learned about the five ways of knowing, one of which is Aesthetics. Aesthetics, as one might guess, is all of the visual, audible, and written forms of communication. I was thoroughly skeptical about Aesthetics place as a primary way of knowing because it appears to be a layer to the other ways of knowing. Today, however, my feelings were shaken somewhat. The play really displayed how Aesthetics plays a major role in conveying information, feelings, and history, all wrapped into one package. Emotion also was masterfully written in to the play as I found myself empathizing with the slaves throughout the play. I can now see how Aesthetics and Emotion, when properly combined, really can cause a person to ponder ideas and come away with a changed perspective. The Honor's class also learned about various ways to mix the five ways of knowing together or keep them separate. The one I found most helpful was Interpenetrating Magisteria (IMA) which carries the idea of each way of knowing being a part of the others and interpreting the others. This play truly displayed how using IMA brings stories and ideas alive while affecting one's preexisting feelings and ideas. Each way of knowing serves to fill in the gaps of the others and paints a much fuller picture.
As I have mentioned above, I came away from "Adrift on the Mississippi" with a new perspective and thoughts. First, I was re-awakened to the plight that blacks suffered and what horrendous oppression they endured by the hands of the whites. It can be easy to forget or reduce in our minds these types of things, so this play was a good reminder to me of what hate does. It never ceases to amaze me what horrible injustice humans have opposed on others throughout history. I also saw an incredible statement of faith in God and resolve to be free in the play. In everything Rev. Hickman went through, he continued to share his faith and remain strong in the Lord. This serves as a reminder of how good my life is; it also reminds me to stay strong in my faith even through times of trouble that are minor compared to what the blacks went through. I am reminded to have great respect for blacks and to be careful not to hate anyone. I had the pleasure of speaking with Rev. Dr. Holst, President of Concordia, before the play. This conversation assisted me further in applying the play to everyday life. President Holst discussed how this play applies to anything we are slaves to. Whether this is money, possessions, food, etc. we can only become free if we trust God and run from our slave master just like Hickman and the others did in "Adrift." This play was an extremely enjoyable experience and I have great respect for blacks and their struggles.