FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 26, 2021
Jocelyn Foye, Director
Provocative Series on RI Slave Trade Launches in Providence
With support from local funders, The Womxn Project along with artists and writers are telling the story of how this state was built and shining a light on the history of enslaved people.
[Providence, RI] – Statement on the launch of a new public art series to teach forgotten histories, evoke the deep human emotion that this history holds to this day, and motivate attendees to work towards an anti-racist future:
As a national debate rages around “Critical Race Theory” and whether we should take down Confederate statues, The Womxn Project is getting real about the horrors of our state’s history in order to reckon with what really happened and how we can make a difference now. Erasing the voices of Indigenous people forced from their land or enslaved people stolen from their families and forced to build some of the most iconic buildings in Rhode Island doesn’t change the harms or take away the pain of their families.
“Silence does not lead to liberation. We are raising our voices and raising awareness in partnership with an incredible group of scholars, artists and performers to shine a light on the indignities and injustice of Rhode Island’s past, so we can build towards a brighter and more just future here in our state and across the country,” said Jocelyn Foye, Director of The Womxn Project.
To truly commit to advancing racial justice, we need to own the harms of the past AND the systemic oppression of the present.
“My people likely come from Ghana and were probably sold into slavery on the sugar plantations in Jamaica. Today, I walk the streets paved with the taxes from the Trade, while staring in awe of the massive mansions that are testament to the enormous wealth garnered from slavery in Rhode Island, all while still petitioning for equality and justice, while some elected officials are clueless as to the truth,” commented Providence based Artist and educator, Marlon Carey.
With grant support from the RI Council of the Humanities and RI State Council on the Arts and in partnership with Brown University’s Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, The Womxn Project is honored to launch “Illuminating the Legacy of Slavery in RI”, a projection and performative reading series aimed at shining a spotlight on the real history of our state.
“As we all know, the history taught to us over generations has a notorious tendency to leave a lot of things out. It is through art and expression that the voiceless can be heard. If we all lend our piece of the narrative to art and storytelling, we can help unveil the true history of our people,” said local artist and contributor to the Providence installation, Catia Ramos.
The Womxn Project has brought together artists and scholars to create narratives based on research, while performers are working with creative writers to bring original reads to each of the three locations (Providence, Woonsocket and Cranston).
The kick off in Providence on Thursday will be held Brown University’s University Hall, which was constructed in 1770. Records indicate Pero, an enslaved person, Job, an Indigenous person and Mingow, a “free” African were three of at least four enslaved laborers who built what was then called the College Edifice for the College of Rhode Island. This site represents how slave labor built the state of RI – literally and as an economy.
“Once you know that the state of Rhode Island was built upon income from the transatlantic slave trade, you want to shout it from the hilltops. You want everyone who lives on Dexter, Waterman, Angell, Cranston – or, in my case, Vernon Street or Paine Road – to know that their address is named for a slave profiteer. You want every Rhode Islander who insists that the state was founded on tolerance to know that in the 1750s, there were towns in southern Rhode Island whose populations were 30% Black and enslaved,” declared project lead and The Womxn Project partner, Cristina DiChiera.
Illuminating the Legacy of Slavery seeks to tell these truths in a way that is poetic, communal and larger than life. The Womxn Project uses art to shine a bright light on social justice issues – current and historical. We hope that this experience enlightens you and inspires you to carry that light into other dark places where injustice and ignorance still prevail,” added DiChiera.
Let’s shine that light and speak up and then let us all commit to taking action in our homes, our workplaces, our schools and our communities to do better, to do something about it and to do all we can to dismantle white supremacy and other systems of oppression and ensure every Rhode Islander is able to not just get by, but to thrive. We are seeking not only justice, but liberation for us all. We have work to do and learning our history is a critical first step.
Media wishing to cover this event are encouraged to contact Jocelyn Foye for more details. Jocelyn and the artists and performers are available for interview upon request.