Traces of the Trade in Bermuda: Big Watch and Big Read

Posted December 9th, 2010 by
Category: Outreach Tags: , ,

Photo credit: Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni

In April, Katrina Browne, executive director of the Tracing Center and producer/director/writer of Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, was invited to Bermuda by the anti-racism organization Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB) to present the film and speak to high school students and community members about her journey and our work around racial justice and reconciliation.

The dialogues in Bermuda deeply moved hundreds of people and a short video, Discussing the Trade, was created by local filmmaker Alex Dill to record the impact of our visit. You can see the video here.

Photo credit: Michelle Dismont-Frazzoni

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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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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.


Goodwin Liu re-nominated to 9th Circuit

Posted September 14th, 2010 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

James DeWolf Perry is a regular contributor. He appears in the film Traces of the Trade and is the Tracing Center’s interim managing director and director of research. This entry is cross-posted from James’ own blog, The Living Consequences, and the opinions expressed are his own.

The White House announced late yesterday that President Obama has re-nominated Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Professor Liu’s nomination became controversial when it was discovered that he had addressed the subject of reparations for slavery on a panel following a special screening of our documentary, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, in Washington, D.C. in 2008. Liu’s scholarship has also drawn considerable attention for its intellectual heft and for what conservative senators have declared to be a left-leaning philosophical approach to the law.

Professor Liu was originally nominated to the appellate judgeship in February, and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 12-7 vote. His nomination expired, however, when the Senate recessed in August without having held a full vote.

Professor Liu’s nomination, along with several others who were re-nominated yesterday, must now pass the Senate Judiciary Committee again. A committee meeting has been scheduled for Thursday at which these nominations will be discussed.


Reflections on Trapped Miners in Chile

Posted September 1st, 2010 by
Category: Modern issues Tags: , , , ,

Harold Fields is a regular guest contributor who appears in the film Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. Harold is active in restorative justice and racial reconciliation projects in Denver and around the nation, and his work with the Tracing Center includes serving on its board of directors. The opinions expressed are his own.

I have watched and listened to stories about the 33 trapped miners in Chile with great interest and empathy.  It is a blessed miracle that these men had survived for 17 days after the August 5th mine collapse before rescuers learned they were still alive.  It seems that the whole world was stunned by the initial estimate that it would be Christmas before the men could be freed safely.  Just today I am hearing that this goal might be accomplished by October, due to international cooperation from Germany who is sending a more powerful engine.

What strikes me are the parallels and differences from accounts of the conditions of captured Africans in Ghana during the Triangle Trade.  In the documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North and in Tom DeWolf’s book Inheriting the Trade, we learn of the conditions in the Cape Coast Castle dungeons where people may have been kept for months until there were enough to fill waiting ships.

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