Friday, June 12, 2009


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Kalamazoo, MI

What began as a small concept of teaching history on stage has led to the book, The Journey Begins by Dr. Von H. Washington. Washington is the director of Western Michigan University's Multicultural Theatre Program and Artistic Director of Washington Productions, Inc. The Journey Begins, which was released in May of this year contains two of Washington’s most celebrated and treasured storytelling creations, Seven Stops to Freedom, and The Legend of Sojourner Truth, along with The River to Cross.

Seven Stops to Freedom was commissioned by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to shed light on Michigan's involvement with the Underground Railroad. The Legend of Sojourner Truth was created to highlight Sojourner's life in Battle Creek, Michigan as her statue was being unveiled, and The River to Cross chronicles the William Bright Conner family's escape from Slavery in North Carolina in 1849, and their subsequent decision to settle in Covert, Michigan.

The cover of the book states, "Celebrating the oral traditions of ancient West African storytellers, these dramatic productions have been performed hundreds of times in the United States and abroad. "Von is very pleased that his work is being produced because, as he puts it, "I was never afforded an opportunity to hear stories about life from my perspective when I was a school aged child. I learned about European history, but not about African or African American history. It pleases me to no end to know that my vision of the African American experience is now being shared with people all over the world. I'm hoping that presenting 'a view of the world from their own perspective' is a part of 'the promise' that will be made available to all school children and their parents."

Years ago I made a promise to many of the people who faithfully attended our productions that I would one day make my stories available for everyone to read," said Washington. "I was especially pleased when the request for them came from teachers, librarians, and the parents of the thousands of children who attended our performances. This is what I’ve always wanted, for people to like my stories well enough to want to have a personal copy of them.

Washington has written more than 25 theatrical creations. He calls this latest venture "Act III of my career," which is a rebirth of his pursuit of the publishing and production of his work nationally. His creations began by using his hometown of Albion, Michigan as a backdrop, and have emerged to include locations across the globe.

He has been directing WMU's Multicultural Theatre program for the last 20 years and before that directed African American Theatre programs at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University. He is a recipient of the Michigan Arts Achievement Award, the Kalamazoo Community Medal of the Arts Award, and has had a day named for him in Southfield, Michigan, among others. In a twelve-year military career, he was decorated with two Meritorious Service Medals, a Bronze Star Medal for his work in Vietnam, and an Air Force Accommodation Medal. He was recently inducted into the WMU School of Communication's Alumni Academy.

His plays have received recognitions throughout the years, and are being performed across the country by various theatre production companies. This latest venture as an author is something Washington hopes to continue, as he allows schools and others to read the plays they have enjoyed on stage for years.

Copies of the The Journey Begins are available at, and To book a performance, click the post's title.

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