George Floyd was murdered by police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, a cold and faraway place from the vantage point of Harlan County, Kentucky. But the energy of that long, hot summer reached a group of Harlan high schoolers, and soon enough, this small, rural town was in the midst of a national movement.
The events stirred the community. Some saw it as a call to action on long-unaddressed racism in rural eastern Kentucky, and others saw it as a threat, including members of the local Ku Klux Klan. For the rest of the year, the memories of that summer still sat high in the community’s memory, alongside the deep divisions sown by COVID-19 and the election.
Some tried to forget, hoping for some newfound peace of mind. But Higher Ground, a Harlan-based theater ensemble, decided to take the year and make a play about it.