Katrina Browne on being “White in America”

Posted December 17th, 2012 by
Category: Race and Ethnicity Tags: , , , ,

HuffPost Live's "White in America?"Katrina Browne, our founder, appeared earlier today on a roundtable at the Huffington Post’s “HuffPost Live.” The topic was “White in America?“, inspired by a blogger’s recent call for CNN to complement its “Black in America” series with a look at what it means to be white in our society today.

I’m having one of those: “I wish I had said” moments.  I’m thinking about what I would have said more bluntly than I did, to tie together: Susan Bodnar talking about poor/working class whites not getting enough love (my word) in our culture, as well as talking about their racism; host Alicia Menendez asking why they aren’t covered much on TV; and then Morley Winograd talking about the film Lincoln showing how far we’ve come as a society.

I half-said what I wanted on the show at that point; here’s the more I’d say:

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Leadership transition

Posted June 24th, 2011 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , , ,

The Tracing Center is pleased to announce that our founding executive director, Katrina Browne, has taken on a new role as our director of ideas and external affairs. This shift will allow her to dedicate her time to public activities, content development, and other work on behalf of the organization.

The board of directors has hired James Perry to be our new executive director. James was the founding board chair and president of the Tracing Center and has been centrally involved, since 1999, with Traces of the Trade, for which he shared an Emmy nomination.

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Video of dialogue in Bermuda

Posted December 15th, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , ,

In April, our executive director, Katrina Browne, was invited to Bermuda to screen Traces of the Trade and to facilitate dialogues on the history and legacy of slavery and the slave trade.

The following video, “Discussing the Trade,” was created by local filmmaker Alex Dill at one of these dialogues. In October, this video aired on local television in Bermuda, along with daily broadcasts of Traces of the Trade, as part of follow-up programming organized by the Tracing Center and Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB).

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Dominicans, traces, and race

Posted November 25th, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , ,

Juanita Brown, the co-producer of Traces of the Trade, and I were invited to screen Traces as part of FUNGLODE’s Dominican Republic Global Film Festival… a truly special film festival that I can’t say enough good things about.

Our visit to the country was sponsored by the U.S. embassy there, to whom we are very grateful!!! It was an incredible chance to test again, after going to Cuba, how the Spanish-subtitled version of the film does or does not resonate for people in former Spanish colonies that were built on a slave-based economy.

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“Traces of the Trade” in the Dominican Republic

Posted November 18th, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , , ,

Our executive director, Katrina Browne, and consultant Juanita Brown are in the Dominican Republic this week at the invitation of the U.S. embassy in Santo Domingo to present “Traces of the Trade” and participate in panel discussions and programs about the history and legacy of slavery and the slave trade.

“Tras las Huellas de Mis Ancestros: La Historia Oculta de Nueva Inglaterra,” the Spanish-subtitled version of the film, is screening at the 4th Dominican Global Film Festival (DRGFF). Katrina Browne is the director and producer of the documentary, and Juanita Brown is a co-producer.

In the picture above, Katrina and Juanita are meeting Leonel Fernandez, the president of the Dominican Republic (second from right) and actor Randi Acton at the festival’s opening reception in Santo Domingo last night.

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Best Practices in Teaching Slavery: a Growing Network of Educators

Posted November 10th, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , ,

I had the amazing opportunity to be part of a working group conference, Defining New Approaches for Teaching the Transatlantic Slave Trade and Slavery: Teaching African History and African Diaspora History Workshop. The workshop was hosted by the Harriet Tubman Institute at York University in Toronto and sponsored by the U.N.’s UNESCO Slave Route Project. It was attended by educators, psychologists and historians from Latin America, Central America, the Caribbean, the U.S., Canada, Africa and Europe. We were applying ourselves to the question: what are the psychological consequences of slavery for descendants of enslaved Africans and descendants of the “white” populations that benefited from slavery? And in the face of those multi-generational consequences, what are the implications for how we teach about slavery and African civilization in schools.

At the Tracing Center, we have heard again and again from African-American adults about intensely negative, even traumatic, experiences of being taught about slavery in middle school and high school. The common refrain is teachers who did not have the sensitivity and knowledge to teach this loaded history in a way that was empowering and provided dignity. We know too that European-American students and students of many other backgrounds get the wrong message when slavery isn’t taught well. This is a key moment when students will either be set up for rifts and divisions based on heritage, or it can be a golden opportunity to set them up for incredible grace and understanding and sense of common cause in the work of building a society that works for everyone. Our teacher workshops this fall in Rhode Island and for Christian educators via Calvin College in Michigan, were a chance to refine and share our pedagogical models for creating positive results.

The workshop in Toronto, with reports of how text books in Central America portray slavery, to how the Taubira law in France is impacting the teaching of slavery, to how U.S., British, and French psychologists are working with clients in black communities to frame their challenges in the context of post-traumatic slavery disorder or syndrome, to how these concepts are faring in the academic field of psychology, etc., etc. – the workshop raised up how daunting the challenges are, but how hopeful it is that kindred colleagues are working in similar veins and are now in a better position to collaborate on moving the work forward in all our countries.


Traces premieres in Cuba—our first visit since filming in 2001

Posted October 22nd, 2010 by
Category: News and Announcements Tags: , , , , ,

We were so thrilled to be able to go to Matanzas and Havana, Cuba in March as part of the Freedom Schooner Amistad’s visit there, which was the result of high level diplomatic discussions, given the significance of a U.S. flag vessel sailing into Havana harbor. The three of us that went were James Perry (cousin in film and our director of research), Tulaine Marshall (lead consultant for our multi-country partnership with the Amistad), and myself. Given the linkages in the two histories, it was very meaningful to be partnered with the replica ship: the story of the Amistad captives rebelling while aboard this vessel that was transporting them from Havana (where they’d been sold off a slave ship) to a plantation elsewhere on the island – and the fact that the DeWolfs were planters on the island during the same period and had been very much part of the illegal slave trade that flourished there.

As readers who have seen the film can imagine, it was a big deal to be able to finally return to Cuba to show the documentary for the first time. I was nervous because during our final editing process, editor Alla Kovgan and I decided to take out two scenes in Cuba, with Cubans. As you may recall, the Cuba section of the final film shows very little interaction with Cubans, despite the entire week we spent visiting/filming with scholars, and speaking with Cubans we met in various places. Alla and I decided that the politics of race relations in Cuba is a whole complex stew, all the more loaded because of relations between our two countries, and that it digressed too much from our main themes in the film to delve into that in the limited space/time we had.

So I was nervous that Cubans would be offended that the time in Cuba in the film was so focused on our family and what we were going through.

To all of our relief, the standing-room only audience at our screening was deeply moved and appreciative, including gracious scholars we had interviewed: Natalia Bolivar and Zoila Lapique. We heard from attendees that, while the communist government officially abolished racial discrimination after the revolution, issues of racism and privilege have lingered in Cuban society as they have elsewhere in the world. So they were eager to see Traces used as a resource for raising these issues because of the many parallels they saw in the film. The means for doing that are now being explored.

Hats off to Boris Ivan Crespo and other members of the Cuban film crew who enabled us to have such great filming in 2001 and who were able to come to the premiere to be appreciated for their handiwork.

Another great breakthrough came when we were invited to speak to staff at the Cuban National Archives. There are several researchers there who specialize in the slave trade, and they have been disappointed that so many scholarly works on the slave trade do not involve research in Cuban archives, despite the centrality of Cuba to the slave trade and the Atlantic slave economy. Because the DeWolfs were so prominent in the illegal slave trade between the U.S., Cuba and Africa, we committed to work with our new colleagues to pursue licenses and funding such that new research collaboration can take place. We were able to see customs log books from the 1810’s and 20’s with names of vessels and captains that we recognized all too well.

Lastly, the three of us were able to learn about a sixth DeWolf plantation, that we hadn’t previously known about, and to visit the location of one that we had not looked for in 2001. The AP wrote a story on that search.

My thanks to the all the Amistad team, the Cuban and U.S. officials, and to our lead consultant Tulaine Marshall for making this incredible visit possible.


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