For more news about what has happened since last summer, please visit the filmmaker’s website.
From the Filmmaker
Traces of the Trade has appeared at the Sundance Film Festival and the New Orleans Human Rights Watch Film Festival and will be appearing at the Newport International Film Festival and the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York in June. In addition to festivals, the film has screened at a number of notable events, including the National Cathedral’s series commemorating the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s death; the National Constitution Center’s Legacy of 1808 series, which is focusing on the bicentennial of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade this year; and the Council on Foundations 2008 Philanthropy Summit. It will be featured at the UNITY Conference, a gathering of journalists of color, in July. After the POV broadcast in June, we will be taking on a larger, more multifaceted, grassroots outreach campaign that will include schools, churches, racial justice organizations, libraries, historical societies and more. We are constantly amazed by how moved audiences are by the film, how they open up to talk about race in ways rarely seen, and how they motivated they become to do more. We are using our website as a way to guide those who want to get involved to find ways to take action, and throughout 2008 and 2009, we are partnering with a number of community, educational, and faith-based organizations to extend the impact the film will have in inspiring conversations about race in the United States.
— Katrina Browne
Following the filming of Traces of the Trade, Juanita resumed her writing on the personal and institutional impacts of racism and internalized oppression, resulting in the creation of two solo performance theater pieces. She also earned a master’s degree with an emphasis on education policy from the University of California at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. Juanita currently pursues her passion for human liberation through education and the arts. She is Assistant Director for Development at the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national organization dedicated to transforming public education for all students, with a special focus on low-income students of color. She also performs in the San Francisco Bay Area with El Wah Movement, a Haitian dance company.
Keila has been involved with the Spirituals Project Choir as well as with a group dedicated to undoing racism that meets in the Denver area. She has participated in discussions following several screenings of the film and in conversations about the film and racism at Denver-area schools. Health issues have limited Keila’s physical ability to travel as much as she used to, but her health hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm or her ability to spread the word through interviews with the media, which she has done with the Denver Post and Colorado Public Radio. She and her husband, Jerry, continue to live on their ranch, Shiloh, located outside Boulder, Colorado.
Tom has spent much of his time since the journey in 2001 writing a memoir of his experiences with his cousins in filming Traces of the Trade. He has been writing full time since late 2005. His book Inheriting The Trade: A Northern Family Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S. History was published by Beacon Press in January 2008 to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the federal law that outlawed the U.S. slave trade. Since the book’s publication Tom has spent a great deal of time on the road at book stores, conferences, churches, museums, universities, high schools, middle schools and film festivals, discussing his book, the film, and their message of hope for healing the wounds inflicted through racism and the legacy of slavery. He and his wife Lindi continue to live in Oregon and spend as much time as they can with their three grandchildren, Seth, Ali and George, and look forward to the birth of their fourth grandchild in September. For further information, visit inheritingthetrade.com
After returning from her experience with the family journey, Holly taught French and English Language Acquisition at Abraham Lincoln High School and attended race dialogue discussion groups in Denver until June 2007. Since January 2006 she has been a member of Coming to the Table, an initiative that looks at the history of slavery and its legacy through the stories of and connections between African Americans and whites whose ancestors were directly involved in the institution of slavery. Since moving to Massachusetts, she has given talks and facilitated discussions as outreach for Traces of the Tradeas well as attended lectures, retreats and conferences on social justice, the history of slavery, white privilege, wealth and distribution of resources, and dialogue and deliberation work. She’s active in music, theater, her United Church of Christ community, and doing pet partner work in hospitals with her golden retriever. Since her experience in transformational travel to Haiti with Beyond Borders, she has volunteered in and supported a Haitian foundation called Nasonje (“We will remember” in Creole), whose focus is aiming for global healing from oppression, domination and slavery.
Apart from organizing discussions about race as a member of the diversity council at her workplace, the externals of Elly’s life have changed little since making the film: She works, sings, cycles, volunteers in the environment, hikes, gardens, and putters at home with her husband, cat and chickens.
However, she processes the events of her life and examines them through a new lens. She is an avid reader of articles related to race and civil rights and feels energized and at ease talking about white privilege and the invisible hand of racism. She is more aware of her own internal dialogue and the source of her reflexive responses — and she feels engaged as an ally, making eye contact and opening conversations with people of color more readily, more naturally than she did before. She believes she is more of a citizen of this country, connected to both our history and a hopeful future.
Ledlie has set up screenings of Traces of the Trade in many neighboring towns and communities. The discussions that have followed have made clear to him how the family’s honesty about their ancestors’ part in the slave trade has allowed and encouraged others to talk about their family secrets and how, together, we can begin to take steps toward repairing the breach between black and white Americans. He considers it a privilege to take part in this work. It has brought him new challenges and a fresh sense of his vocation as a 78-year-old Episcopal priest.
Elizabeth Sturges Llerena
Elizabeth has used her art to focus on issues related to the themes in Traces of the Trade. She created a dress entitled “What’s Hidden Underneath” that was shown in the Cultural Redress exhibit at Queens Library, New York (September 2006 – January 2007). The outer dress is adorned with portraits of Senator James DeWolf, the family’s leading slave trader. The front opening of the dress exposes African Americans and other people of color who remain invisible or only partially visible to many white Americans today. (See images of the dress.) Elizabeth is in discussions with Linden Place Museum, the former DeWolf family mansion in Bristol, Rhode Island, about how art can be used to tell the story of the house’s, the family’s and Bristol’s connection to slavery. Elizabeth also uses her experience in Traces of the Trade in the classroom. She teaches art at Flushing International High School.
Since 2002, Dain has been showing Traces and facilitating conversations on racial reconciliation at churches of various denominations and faiths, grammar and high schools, colleges, seminaries, and several civic groups. Audiences have varied in size, from 10 to more than 600. He got married in 2006, and his wife, Constance, has been a partner with him in these presentations since 2004. Dain has preached in three Episcopal churches on racial reconciliation and gave a Founder’s Day speech at his high school on the subject. With Constance, he has been working to introduce an antiracist training program at their church. Dain retired a couple of years early, in March 2008, to devote more time to doing this work. In April 2008, he and Constance were honored to receive Social Capital Inc’s first SCI Idealist Award, in part for “their work together to facilitate dialogue about racial reconciliation in conjunction with their family’s Sundance-nominated documentary Traces of the Trade, which is very much in keeping with SCI’s goal of building bridges among diverse community members.” Dain has been the Board Chair of SCI since 2003.
James appears regularly at screenings of the film and participates in dialogues with educational, religious and community groups, primarily in New England. He also speaks with university classes and student groups about the journey and about the legacy of slavery and the slave trade. In addition, he works directly with the film and its outreach program, especially in connection with history and legislative affairs. And he has continued to research the international dimensions of the slave trade as well as the particular role in the trade played by Bristol and the DeWolf family.
Jim is actively retired in Arizona. Twice a week he volunteers at a crisis shelter for abused children, rocking and singing to babies. An avid hiker, he is part of a uniformed patrol for the National Forest Service. During the making of Traces of the Trade, he was surprised to learn what a privilege it is to be white in this country and how little most whites understand about the experience of being a person of color. He and his wife, Shirley, plan to use the documentary to create and support open and compassionate dialogue about issues of race today.
Since the family’s journey to Rhode Island, Ghana and Cuba in 2001, Katrina has dedicated herself to the successful completion of Traces of the Trade. This has included heading up the team that filmed the family’s efforts “back home” for Act IV of the film and the team that conducted the edit/post-production. Simultaneously, she led efforts to use rough cut versions of the film to: (1) generate input on the film that informed the edit; (2) create dialogue and social change even prior to the release of the film; and (3) lay the foundation for partnerships for release of the full-length film. In 2006, for example, Katrina, her colleague Zena Link and family members worked with others in the Episcopal Church to bring the rough cut to the church’s General Convention. These screenings and accompanying advocacy work played a key role in the passage of resolutions whereby the Episcopal Church is atoning for its role in slavery. This then fed into similar efforts being taken up by the Unitarian Universalist Association. Going forward, Katrina is committed to overseeing the film’s outreach and distribution efforts and to doing public screenings/speaking, all toward the goal of truth, repair and reconciliation.
Since last year, there has been a series of legislative developments, at the national and state levels, related to the legacy of slavery and the slave trade.
The year 2008 marks the bicentennial of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade, and in February, President Bush signed into law the Commission on the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade Act. The commission is charged with promoting public and private commemorations of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade in 1808. The U.S. legislation, introduced by Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) as H.R. 3432, was passed after the Senate voted to strike the authorization of funding for the commission.
Apologies for slavery have been passed in seven states since February 2007: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and as far north as New Jersey. Apologies have been proposed by lawmakers, but not yet passed, in other states, including Georgia, Missouri, New York, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas, and there are movements for apologies in other states, including Delaware, Mississippi and Rhode Island.
At the national level, Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) introduced a resolution, H.R. 194, last year calling for the House to apologize for slavery and discrimination “on behalf of the people of the United States.” In February, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) announced their intention to introduce an apology for slavery and discrimination in the Senate this spring. Unlike Cohen’s resolution, but like many state apologies, the Brownback/Harkin apology would contain language stipulating that the apology could not be used as the basis for reparations lawsuits. Cohen’s resolution currently has 120 co-sponsors; Brownback and Harkin say their proposal already has 17 co-sponsors, including Senator Barack Obama.
Finally, since 1989, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who is currently chair of House Judiciary, has introduced into each Congress the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. This bill, numbered H.R. 40 (for “forty acres and a mule”), would establish a commission to study the history of slavery and discrimination and any lingering effects from these events. In addition to educating the public, the commission would recommend to Congress “appropriate remedies,” including the possibility of an apology or “any form of compensation” to the descendants of slaves. On December 18, 2007, in the first action on H.R. 40, the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing on the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. Further hearings are expected, but have not yet been announced.
The Episcopal Church
Work in the Episcopal community has continued on the legacy of slavery, apology and repair since the Episcopal General Convention in 2006 (as seen in the film). Dioceses that were on the forefront of this work, such as the Dioceses of New York, Newark, and Maryland, have continued to move the issue forward. Others have passed resolutions inspired by the General Convention resolutions, and others are in the midst of working to get resolutions passed. We are aware of activity in the Dioceses of New York, Newark, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, Mississippi, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Chicago, Vermont and California.
Several dioceses have used Traces of the Trade, or portions of it, for screenings/dialogues at Diocesan Conventions, for clergy retreats, at Diocesan-wide events and in individual parishes. In New Jersey, for example, the film was screened in order to promote passage of Diocesan resolutions on slavery atonement — which did pass.
The Anti-Racism Committee of the Episcopal Church as a whole has been supporting Diocesan work and tracking it so that models can be shared across different regions.
The national Episcopal Church is holding a Service of Atonement, in response to the resolutions, at Washington National Cathedral, on October 4, 2008. Planning for this event, to date, includes a day of workshops on race in connection with overall activities.
We encourage dioceses and parishes to use the film to organize dialogues on the legacy of slavery. The documentary will also be released on DVD during the summer of 2008. We look forward to seeing how this conversation will result in moves to action in Episcopal communities throughout the country.
For more information, please contact DeWolf descendant Dain Perry and his wife, Constance Perry (who appears briefly in the film), who are serving as Episcopal Coordinators for the film:
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. They and other family members (including Tom DeWolf, author of Inheriting the Trade) are available to lead screenings/dialogues and to speak.