New Play to Highlight Route 1’s Restricted Past

Pool Party Joe's Movement Emporium Mount Rainier play theater

Photo courtesy of Joe’s Movement Emporium

Three local organizations are collaborating to create “Mapping Racism,” a project to bring awareness to the history of racist restrictive covenants.

Hidden within old property deeds in Prince George’s County is language which bars the owner from selling to a non-white person. These were commonplace in the first half of the 20th century as a tool for racial segregation, especially in Hyattsville and University Park, including the land for Magruder Park.

The Hyattsville Community Development Corporation and Joe’s Movement Emporium are partnering for a two-phase project to bring attention to these covenants and to take action against them.

The first phase of the Mapping Racism project will include research on all properties that are entangled in restrictive covenants. The CDC will be creating an online platform, allowing users to view the associated covenants for any local property, according to the Executive Director Stuart Eisenberg.

“The existence of restrictive covenants in the history across the United States dives into how segregation in our society created differential opportunities for both residential quality education and access to employment,” Eisenberg told the Hyattsville Wire.

This phase may take years to complete due to the immense amount of necessary research. The second phase will be legal action to dispose of the covenants.

During the research phase, Joe’s Movement Emporium is partnering with Ally Theatre Company to tell this story through a play.

Mapping Racism is far from Ally’s first work about local segregation. The theater recently produced “#poolparty,” a true story of segregation at a public pool in Prince George’s County.

“Ally Theatre Company’s mission is to produce theater design to engage audiences through acknowledging and confronting systematic oppression in America,” said Artistic Director Ty Hallmark.

Playwright Douglas Robinson will be writing the 30 to 45-minute play. While the play is still in beginning stages, Robinson is looking to find one focal point, possibly the effect of the covenants on children, and have several stories told as the play unfolds.

“I really want to hammer it home to readers that yes, this may not affect you now, but it has affected everything that you have now,” said Robinson.

The play will have a staged reading in January 2019 and will reach full production in May 2019 at Joe’s Movement Emporium and a yet-to-be determined location in Hyattsville.

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