Author: Kayla Schiltz

Appropriate

For the first part of the blog post, I will write down the notes in the order I took them while watching the play.

  • Beginning of the play a character mentioned how passed the lake, there is a slave graveyard that does not have any markings. Meanwhile, there is another graveyard that has tombstones. Later on in the play a character says,” you would hardly realize you’re there until you are on it”.
  • The walls on the stage showed signs of residue from old picture frames but the only picture left on the wall was a big picture of the old white man. I felt like it was a sign of only commemorating old white men.
  • The characters were talking about how when the house is sold, the construction workers would destroy the graveyard in order to build other things such as a Walmart.
  • One quote that stood out to me was,”maybe he was a slave to his upbringing”.  A character was explaining a possibility as to why their father could have had the pictures of the lynchings. Maybe the lynchings were normalized and the dad grew up in a community where it seemed okay.
  • I felt like when the children could not believe that their father was part of the lynchings at first it was like how some privileged people or institutions do not acknowledge issues and try to erase history. It also reminded my of why Untold RVA is so important. Things are being uncovered from the passed that seem surprising and that were hidden.
  • The father who passed was supposed to become a supreme court judge. The daughter found this as an accomplishment and as a sign of her father being a good man but in reality that is a scary thought and shows was is happing in politics and society today. Minorities do not have a fair chance in court due corrupt minds and policies that privileged white men created and try to stand by. Continuing about the daughter, I feel that she always tried to flip the script and shift blame from her father to others. She thought other people were the problem and that her father was a good man in her eyes. Also, I found that she cared more about her brother being a sex offender but stays blind to the fact that her dad was a racist man.
  • In Act 2, I think they showed the dilemma of sharing and over sharing. One of the grandchildren tried taking a photo of one of the lynchings to post on instagram. In a way it is good to share things like that to educate people but it is also sensitive material that could bring up traumatic emotions from others.
  • One quote from one of the grandchildren was,”All I learned is that everything is a secret” when talking about why she came to the house to learn more about her father and her grandfather. That was like Richmond and how a lot of things are hidden due to institutions covering things up.
  • one thought that came up during second act was: people can be nice but still participate in cruel things. Some things were normalized. White people did not view black people as humans which made it easier for them to do bad things to them such as lynchings. This could explain why people can appear to be a good person but participate in bad things.
  • One sign that the dad was racist was when he saw his son’s black college roommate and would not look at his face. He even later told his son ” keep an eye on your things” as if the black person was going to steal his stuff due to stereotyping.
  • A character brought up that their son did not know the meaning of the photos because they were not taught about lynchings in school.
  • I related the photos thrown into the lake as the lynched bodies floating through the river.
  • “your family makes me crazy” said one of the female characters when she was explaining why she turned violent at the end. The environment that you live in makes you do things that are not necessarily “you”. The family subconsciously had the thirst for violence so then she naturally responded to her environment and became violent herself. This could also explain how some people were able to participate in lynchings. When people around you seemed okay with it, eventually your brain will think it is okay too.

I wanted to talk about how some people do not know what to do to make up for the poor past. The play mentioned how “I’m sorry” means “I’m Sore” which is the oldest ritual and part of the healing process. However, we need more than “I’m sorry” sometimes and need effort and time for true healing. People should not brush over or cover horrors from the past due to embarrassment. People need commemoration and justice. There is also an argument some people have about how they do not pick which family lineage that they are born to. So they do not have to make up for wrong doings that their ancestors made.

I also related how the family tried selling the pictures for profit and not to educate or to to try to make right to the museum we visited. We talked about how we felt the museum was artificial and was not personal at all. I feel like institutions try to make profit then really trying to educate people and to commemorate victims.

Camille and Social Justice

Camille A. Brown’s style is social dance. She first describes dance as a language and then social dance as an expression that emerges from a community. Her work uses traditional African movements and the social dances that came from them and uses them in her choreography. The style is not very technical such as ballet or other contemporary companies such as Alvin Ailey. The choreography that she produces allows the dancers more freedom with their movements than if they were performing a piece for most companies. Most companies and pieces developed contain certain techniques that the dancers have to do well. Camille A. Brown gives the steps that have rhythm and the rest is up to the individual to make it into their own. Another aspect of her movement quality is to make the movements more pedestrian like which also helps make it less technical. 

Another thing that she mentioned was that humans develop music and she likes to utilize and create a lot of rhythms. Camille A Brown said that Africans used dance as a language and it expresses their identity, so dancers should dance the movement in a way that is true to them. In a way, she is commemorating African traditions that created many social dances that have been white-washed over the years. Many of the social dances that become a trend, roots from black people. However, the majority of the dances are highlighted in the media and at social gatherings by white people. The dances have been appropriated and Camille A. Brown pays tribute to the dance’s origins. Similarly, Untold RVA shares stories that have been concealed by institutions and she brings light to its true history. 

My question to Camille A Brown is how did she fist get into social dance and how long did it take her to develop her craft to become noticed and successful? Also, was her movement quality and her choreography accepted at first or was their hesitation from the public? After watching the performance, my new question is: what first motivated Camille to stay true to her craft in social dance and when/how did she decided to advocate for black history through dance?

Digital Storytelling Done Right?

     I picked the Harvey Milk digital journal to analyze because it appeared to be about history and the digital journal for dance and commemorative justice has historical aspects to it. I thought that it would provide ideas on how to present historical facts well. Harvey Milk’s digital journal was well made. The information presented was well organized and easy to follow. The narrator provided a lot of information. Along with the ample amount of information, there were a variety of different pictures. The pictures changed throughout the video which kept my eyes from being bored. Unfortunately, the audio malfunctioned in the middle of the video. The voice was loud and clear but then it shifted into a quieter volume which made it hard to hear. It was hard to focus on the new information and pictures because the audio was not normal. I would have liked to see more videos of Harvey Milk rather than pictures to change the dynamic of the video. Additionally, another voice could have been used so that the viewers do not have to listen to the same voice throughout the video. 

     I also watched “FYS education digital story”. The main critique I have for this video is that the narrator’s voice is monotone which made it boring to listen to him speak. However, the video had many good qualities. I liked that he made the digital story personal by describing his experiences with his job and the kids, and how he discussed the language barrier between them. He also added many photos and video clips which added a variety of visual effects. I felt like I was on his journey as he was in another country because he made the video like a personal story. I thought that the personal aspect and storytelling that this digital journal provided is what is needed for my own digital journal.

     For my digital journal, I want to make sure that it has a good amount of information that educated people but is not overwhelming. I also want to add personal elements by possibly adding interview clips from dancers, audience members and others. Also, I can add video clips and pictures from the performances, rehearsals, and from moments traveling around the burial ground. I want to make sure that the audio is good. I want to avoid a monotone voice and want to make sure that the words spoken are clearly understandable. I also want to avoid disorganization. I have to make sure all of the information presented flows and makes logical sense.

Superficial Institutionalized History

     The exhibit “Determined” brought about mainly negative reactions from the group. Free Egunfemi reminded us to go in with an open-mind and absorb all we can about the exhibit. She wanted us to also focus on what the exhibit was missing.

     The group first sat around a table and Free Egunfemi talked to us about how she got Untold RVA started and how she thinks it is up to the people themselves and not the institutions job to share the history and stories of cultures and oppressed people. She believes that historical exhibits generally are commentaries of history and they do not go further into the history and talk about the true pain and struggles and how it exists today. Egunfemi also mentioned her disappointment that the exhibit does not mention Gabriel at all. Optimistically, she said that it can provide the opportunity for the people to share the story of Gabriel and do it with dignity and sincerity. Free Egunfemi’s mentality reminds me of the “Emergent Strategy” reading because she comes from a mindset of healing rather than hate and destruction. She carries herself with grace as she tells the horrible stories of Richmond and this country. She acknowledges the problems in her community and she mindfully adjusts to the situation and figures out ways to move past it and create a better/improving situation.  Lastly, she said that the name of the exhibit itself is linguistically sad. Free Egunfemi told us that she uses the word “self-determined” to describe stories such as the story of Gabriel and how determined he was for the rebellion and to make change for himself and his people. She believes that leaving out the word “self” lessens the strength of the term and how important it is in fighting and fixing the struggles in society.

     After looking at the exhibit, the group met together and we discussed our interpretations of it. First, we talked about how superficial and cheesy it was. We felt like the majority of the exhibit was spitting out textbook facts and did not make it personal. It discussed the facts and dates from the start of slavery but then it skipped many years until it reached the present. The exhibit skipped many years as if nothing bad was going on during that time which added to the superficial and insincere quality of it. The walls even go from red, to orange, to brown, to green, and then to purple. It made it seem like society was bad during the time of slavery but since slavery “ended” and we had a black president then everything is better now. The colors symbolized pain and darkness and transitioned to a good and hopeful tone. The group discussed that the exhibit tried to cover up the reality and try to divert people’s attention to the successes of black people in America but do not highlight that the problems still exist. Last year, I learned of the idea that the injustices from history still exist today but they evolved which is why people think things have gotten better but in reality it has not. 

     The exhibit missed a personal aspect of their history telling. Adding connections from history to today is necessary and it was lacking. Also, like I mentioned, the exhibit needs to tell the injustices that are still going on currently. They can talk about the problems going on all over the world or country but the group also talked about how it would be interesting to specifically focus on the problems existing in Richmond. Thankfully, Untold RVA exists so that it can tell those stories of the true injustices in the area. 

     I think that the distinction between African American history and American history is interesting and important to talk about. Yes, we can tell the story of black people but there were the oppressed and the oppressors who were part in the making of America. Calling it African American separates black people from stories of this country. Black people are the heart of America and the oppressors exploited them for their own gains. We lessen their contributions to this country and we disrespect the struggles that they went through. 

     I wonder what other programs are like Untold RVA around the country because I believe that they can do the real work to commemorate the oppressed better than institutions. 

 

Gabriel Week Event

     The Gabriel Week event provided me new insight to what the project was about and what it was going to be like. The Reverend, the march and shuffle, the meditation circle, and the community coming together created a great experience for me.

     The Reverend, or the women who did most of the speaking provided disturbing knowledge such as, “Most of the lynchings were state functioned”. She also provided nourishing information such as, “Our ancestors can be commemorated and live through our bodies as we dance and not just as statues”. 

     The march and shuffle that was taught to us was very powerful and unifying. Everyone was able to do the movements, so professional dancers and community members with no technical training could stand as one for a good cause. We traveled through the burial ground up into the streets where cars passing by could see us. The cars were honking as they drove passed us. At first, I felt insecure as the cars were honking because people generally honk when they feel anger or fear. However, I finally realized that they were honking to support what we were doing.

     At the end of the ceremony, we participated in a meditation circle which made me feel in-tune with myself and spirits near me. It was a beautiful and important addition to the event. I felt that the meditation added a peaceful aspect to the event which could have brought out anger and sorrow. 

     I want to keep learning about the event and the history behind it so that I can inform others about it. Also, I want to be informed of other areas that have been neglected under the state and how we can commemorate those areas.

The First Encounter

       I was anxious and curious about traveling to VCU because I did not know what to expect from the new classroom, people, process, and product. However, after the first meeting, I became excited for an excellent learning opportunity under the teachings of a creative and intelligent artist.

       The beginning of the meeting was filled with positive  and lively energy. M.K’s enthusiasm brought joy and comfort to the room and it encouraged me to bring the same energy. M.K started with making a class agreement which I respected but never did in a dance class before. The agreements that were produced were generally to respect and to be kind to others which can be shown in many ways through behavior, mentality and verbal speech. The creation of the class agreements also provided the students a chance to share their opinions with each other which created a small yet powerful bonding experience. Moreover, the bonding experience increased when we were moving around. There were small moments of individual improve, along with introductions, that we later shared and copied from others. The movement allowed everyone’s energies to be shared with each other.

       M.K characterizes herself as a cultural organizer which I believe translates through her teaching style. She brought everyone together for a purpose and is passionate about her project. Additionally, she is open to everyone’s thoughts and opinions and works with it. The definition of culture M.K. utilizes says that is is a way of living. I believe that she is creating a small culture and community in the dance studio. The culture in the studio is a respectful, fun, open, and hard working environment. For future project of my own, I hope that I can create the same environment that she created.

       I did not face any distinct challenges that day, however, I know that as the project moves forward some will come up. From this experience, I expect to have more knowledge and inspiration for whenever I want to create my own artistic project for the community. I am interested to observe all the moving parts of creating a meaningful dance that impacts the community. M.K’s vision of the choreography is not yet apparent to me and I do not know what kind of emotions she wants to create with the dancers. During future meetings, I will be sure to ask what kind of mood she wants us to evoke. I believe that knowing the type of emotion to produce can alter the execution of the choreography.

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