Production to showcase connection between Black heritage and fashion, celebrate Juneteenth

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Fashion is just one way Black people have molded their own identities throughout history, according to Nicole Rials.

“Our heritage begins pre-slavery,” she said. “Part of Juneteenth is about celebrating that freedom but still understanding that many people still struggle with the lasting historical traumas of slavery — the false narratives that it created about African Americans — and some of those narratives are related to our style, our clothing, our hair.”

Through an upcoming Juneteenth production she’s written and directed, Lawrence playwright Rita Rials, Nicole’s sister, aims to celebrate how clothing relates to African American heritage.

“Riches and Rags: The Raiment of Our Journey” is being staged in partnership between Life Restoration Ministries Foundation Theatre and the Lied Center of Kansas. Nicole, who’s a Lawrence therapist, founded LRM Foundation in 2007.

Nicole Rials

“I hope people in our Black community can connect and identify and feel empowered to be who they are and to recognize that there is a community of belonging and connectedness for us,” Nicole said.

New ways to celebrate Juneteenth — nationally recognized on June 19 — live within Rita’s imagination as the holiday approaches each year. Her creative process depends on relatability to the world around her. This year, she chose to hone in on Black cultural fashion staples through history, hoping audience members will learn something from her original story.

“I hope they take away, if they didn’t know, a new learning experience and that they just have a really good time,” Rita said. “And I think I would love to see people walk away with a better understanding and ability to celebrate Black culture.”

Rita Rials

Not quite a typical stage play, the story will progress through dialogue, music and a showing of fashion. A synopsis describes it as “a unique interactive cultural experience.”

Cast members include Azia Gambrell, LaDerrick Collins Jr., Shakiyya Bland, Takisha Derritt, Eugene Miles, Shanice Varnado-Gaskins, Tykce Williams, Dylyn Williams, Loretta Rials, Sasha Rials, Reggie Jackson, Kim Allen and Rakeisha Pringle. Nicole is set to participate in the production as a vocalist, with Anthony Case on the guitar and Anthony Lewis as the DJ.

The Rialses this week are incrementally posting features on the LRM Foundation’s Facebook page for folks to get to know some of the cast. And there will be a few additional surprise guest appearances to look forward to, according to Nicole.

“This is an opportunity to hear from local talent and to shape out stories that are relevant to people right here in our community, and where people can participate in it,” she said.

“Riches and Rags: The Raiment of Our Journey” is set to premiere 7:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday, June 15 at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive in Lawrence. Doors will open at 7 p.m.

It’s free to attend and no ticket reservations are needed. All ages are welcome.

LRM Foundation received a spring 2024 community grant from the Douglas County Community Foundation to support the production.

Learn more about the production on the LRM Foundation’s website,, and the Lied Center’s website,

Earlier in the day Saturday, Lawrence will be celebrating Juneteenth with a parade and street party downtown. Learn more about this year’s celebration on the Lawrence, Kansas Juneteenth website,

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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