Gabriel Week: Exposure to the Past

The Gabriel Week event that took place at the African Burial Ground and the site of the Richmond Gallows activated the space through dance, music, and theater. Those organizing the event truly believed it is their mission to honor and lift those spirits and ancestors that preside in the African Burial Grounds and through this belief they also engaged the audience. It became a performance piece with everyone in attendance engaged and actively commemorating the space through movement. We started by cleansing ourselves; rubbing herb water on ourselves while saying, “wash me, cleanse me, make me rich.” Then we participated in a march along the side of the burial ground and the gallows all the way up to the sign acknowledging Brother Gabriel’s murder in 1800 at the gallows. We then finished the march facing the Gallows for a passionate and powerful telling of Brother Gabriel’s story. Shortly after we watched a commemorative dance performed on the green and then settled around smoking herbs and candles to meditate. What surprised me most about this event was how much audience participation was required and that everyone that was present participated as they were able. It showed a sense of community that is hard to build and nurture. The audience consisted of both young and old members and although the majority was African American there were also a significant number of Caucasian members as well. Although we may have all come from different backgrounds, we were all connected by our engagement with the history that had taken place where we stood. One of the most inspiring aspects of the night was marching beside a stranger in search for justice. It’s something that I had never experienced before but knowing we were all there with a united goal made it feel like we were making an impact.



How to: Commemorate


Superficial Institutionalized History

1 Comment

  1. Melisa Raja Gopal

    During the event, I was so engrossed in the new environment and faces that I forgot the about the active roles of the audience. Thank you for highlighting that! Also, it does feel nice to contribute to something and making an impact, regardless how tiny our roles are.

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