Celebrating Black History Month – the launch of Play it Forward

The American Legion Travis L. Williams Post 65, a veteran and community pillar in South Phoenix and its title sponsor, Arizona Public Service (APS) along with the HeroZona Foundation, will host a new program called Play It Forward on Thursday, Feb 28, in celebration of Black History Month. The engagement will honor Black History Month by inviting Betty Fairfax High School, Linda Abril Educational Academy, Maryvale High School, South Mountain High School and Cesar Chavez High School, from the Phoenix Union High School District’s Black Alliance, to experience a special reception at APS corporate headquarters. In addition to Post 65, the program will be hosted by APS’s Network for Urban Engagement and Veteran Employee Transition Retention Network employee groups. Following the reception, the students will attend a production by Arizona Theatre Company.

The reception will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m., then students will walk across the street to the Herberger Theater to enjoy the performance of August Wilson’s play, “Two Trains Running”, at 7:30 p.m. The play is directed by Lou Bellamy and takes place during the 1960s in an African- American neighborhood in Pittsburgh, PA. The performance explores the civil rights movement and changing attitudes toward race.

“I’m excited to create this program as a member of the American Legion Travis L. Williams Post 65 to celebrate and honor Black History Month by educating the Phoenix Union High School District’s students and recognizing those who helped pave the way for civil rights in our country,” says U.S. Army Desert Storm Veteran, HeroZona Foundation Co-Founder and Travis L. Williams American Legion Post 65 Member, Alan “AP” Powell. “I also want to give special thanks to the South Mountain High School Principal and Member of the Black Alliance, Brian S. Guilford, for his continued support in coordinating this event.”

The program will host ten students from each high school, principals, members of the Black Alliance and the director of the army JROTC. All students who attend the engagement will receive extra credit. The group will listen to community leaders speak prior to watching the play.

“The arts enrich us all, and it is especially fulfilling for APS to support Post 65 and the Arizona veteran community, and to share this opportunity with the deserving students of South Phoenix and Arizona Theatre Company,” says APS President, Jeffrey B. Guldner.

Renowned poet extraordinaire and founder of Homebase Poetry, “HB” Harold G. Branch III, will be a special guest at the event and read a poem about black history to the crowd. Speakers at the event will include former Democratic leader of the Arizona State House of Representative and Master of Ceremonies, Art Hamilton; APS President, Jeffrey B. Guldner; Arizona District 12’s Second Vice Commander and American Legion Travis L. Williams Post 65 Member, Felice Wimbish-Tribue; Arizona State Representative from District 12, Reginald Bolding; Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent, Dr. Chad E. Geston; Phoenix Suns President, Jason Rowley; and Arizona Secretary of State, Katie Hobbs.

“The Play it Forward program is yet another example of community enrichment created through the leadership and commitment of APS and the American Legion Travis L. Williams Post 65. I am proud to call both organizations community partners of the Phoenix Suns,” says Rowley.

“The Arizona Theatre Company is honored to be part of this initiative and are thrilled that the students will experience the work of one of the greatest American playwrights, August Wilson, and part of his 10 play cycle that illuminates the African American experience in each of the decades of the 20th Century. It is humbling to be included in such distinguished company and we are proud that Wilson’s words will add to the resonance of the evening,” says Managing Director for the Arizona Theatre Company, Billy Russo.

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