Renaissance House Writers Hold July 4 Reading Of Frederick Douglass Speech On Martha's Vineyard

Renaissance House Writers Hold July 4 Reading Of Frederick Douglass Speech On Martha's Vineyard

Renaissance House Retreat for Writers and Artists invites the public to participate in the 13th annual free dramatic reading of Frederick Douglass' powerful speech "What Does the Fourth of July Mean to the Negro?" on July 4 at 4:30pm at Martha's Vineyard's historic Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs. This year includes a free giveaway of Black Dog tee shirts to the first 30 readers, donated by Black Dog General Stores. Volunteer readers are requested to arrive by 4:00p.m. The reading performance begins at 4:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend.

Readers of all ages are invited to help bring the words of Frederick Douglass to life. Each volunteer reader will recite different sections of the 10,000-plus word address Douglass wrote during American slavery in 1852. Although it's been 167 years since Frederick Douglass delivered his Fourth of July speech at a convention in Rochester, New York, the message is especially resonating during today's turbulent political era.

The director-editor-producer of Renaissance House's annual Frederick Douglass speech is Makani Themba, Chief Strategist at Higher Ground Change Strategies and a veteran social justice innovator and pioneer in the field of change communications and narrative strategy for coalitions and philanthropic institutions. in developing high impact change initiatives.

"I am continually inspired by Frederick Douglass' speech--especially the context in which he gave it. Imagine a Black man, more than 150 years ago, saying to an all-white audience what politicians of any color wouldn't dare say today. And, in the era of slavery to boot," explained Themba.

"The speech is so incredibly fresh. It speaks to contemporary issues of injustice and standing up for justice when it is unpopular to do so. We all need this kind of inspiration and also to remember that, in spite of the conditions or the opposition, we can, and we must stand for what's right."

Lifelong Martha's Vineyard summer resident, Abigail McGrath, the founder of Renaissance House Retreat for Writers & Artists, created this community reading on the beach to celebrate the continuing impact of Frederick Douglass. "By reading it at the Inkwell Beach, an historically Black swimming area, the emotions and not so hidden agenda resonates with a powerful punch," said McGrath. "Having it read by the people in the community heightens the relevancy even more."

Renaissance House is pleased to partner with Black Dog General Store in their donation of 30 tee shirts to readers. The philanthropy motto of Black Dog is "We work with partners to help make a difference because Living Life off the Leash means sometimes sharing our good fortune with others." "This is our first year of accepting corporate gifts," said McGrath. "It is difficult to think of Black Dog as a corporation because they have always had a positive presence in the Martha's Vineyard community."

Volunteer readers are requested to arrive by 4 p.m. The reading begins at 4:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend the performance. For more on the Frederick Douglass reading on July 4, please call Renaissance House at 917-747-0367 or email

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