Local production of iconic play highlights Richmond’s housing crisis

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – An iconic piece of theatre makes its debut at Virginia Repertory Theatre in Richmond.

The play, “A Raisin in the Sun,” is set in the late 1950’s and follows the life of the Younger family living in poverty in Chicago.

When an opportunity to move to a better neighborhood presents itself, the family becomes divided.

8News had a chance to talk with the cast, as well as learn more about how the play brings to light Richmond’s own struggle with public housing.

“At its core, it is about love and we sacrifice and what we will do for our family.” said “A Raisin in the Sun” director Dr. Tawyna Pettiford-Waites.

Premiering in 1959, “A  Raisin in the Sun” by Lorainne Hansberry follows the younger family’s struggle to rise out of poverty in Chicago.

“That’s the black American story,” said “A Raisin in the Sun” actress Katrinah Carol Lewis.

“That we are a hopeful people. We are a joyful people. We are a resilient people. But we move through this world with the gravity of our history.”

For local actress Katrinah Carol Lewis, the play offers hope but also shows the inequalities that exist for minorities almost 60 years after the play debuted.

“It’s 2018 and we like to say we aren’t a segregated society but that’ just not the case,” said Carol Lewis.

One of those inequalities remains to be housing.

“We see the living conditions of these of this group of people and it is sub-par it is inhuman. Why are we ok with that as a society? We’re not ok with it. Let’s do something,” said actor Jerold E. Solomon.

Solomon plays the lead role of Walter Lee Younger and says integrating housing in Richmond is still a work in progress.

“There is a, I want to be around people like me,” said Solomon.  “And you’re not like me so why are you here?”

Virginia reps reached out to HOME, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, to set up this exhibit in the theatre’s lobby.

“Maps that demonstrate how Richmond is just as segregated today as it was at the time “A Raisin in the Sun” was produced,” said President and CEO of HOME Heather Crislip.

The exhibit shows the “red lines’ in Richmond establishing segregated housing in the city in 1936.
Those practices remained in place until the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968.

“We still really lack the enforcement of those laws so those segregated housing patterns persist to this day,” said Crislip.

With heating issues that have plagued Richmond’s public housing recently the cast hopes the play serves as a call to action.

“Richmond will be a much stronger, richer, vibrant, more vibrant community if everyone had the opportunity to have equal and accessible affordable housing,” said Pettiford-Waites.

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