From my article in Dig Boston:
“I’s sick O Massa hans all ova me.”
So begins Ifé Franklin’s 2018 book “The Slave Narrative of Willie Mae” (Wildheart Press).
“This book is historical fiction about a young woman, Willie Mae,” Franklin says. Set in the mid-1800s, Willie Mae is “a 20-year-old African American enslaved woman in Virginia who knows that she’s not a slave. She knows it. She understands it. She’s smart. She’s questioning things.”
The story began as a series of Facebook posts by the Black, queer, interdisciplinary artist over three months about five years ago. “The spirit of my grandmother came to me and said this is how it should be,” Franklin says. “… The book was definitely a gift from the ancestors. They called to me. They said start writing.”
The Boston artist was developing it as an experimental live performance—but for pandemic safety the team reimagined it as a video. The 17-minute short film (three scenes from a planned 17) was directed by Franklin, with support from Emmy-Award winning director Evelyn Moore.
It debuts on Saturday, June 19 (rain date Sunday, June 20), as part of a day-long Juneteenth Celebration at Black Market in Nubian Square, 2136 Washington St. Boston. (Noon to 4 p.m.: Land acknowledgement, a calling of the names of ancestors, a brief history of Juneteenth, prayers, music, poetry, live D.J., a mini “Ancestor Slave Cabin” building workshop, an ancestor message board, and a book sale and author signing. 7 p.m.: film screening and Q and A begin at 6 p.m., with a limited-attendance indoor screening at Black Market as well as online viewing.)
It was filmed by The Loop Lab Production Crew at the Royall House Slave Quarters in Medford, historically “home to the largest slaveholding family in Massachusetts” and believed to be “the only remaining such structure in the northern United States,” according to the museum.
“For this story to be told where enslaved people lived, it is a reckoning. It is an awakening of these souls. It’s a reflection from us to them. It’s actually a call and response. We’re there for them, but they’re already there. I just feel like they’ve been waiting for us to show up,” Franklin says. “They did everything to ensure people like myself would have a life, the life they didn’t have. I know they were proud that we were there. I know the actors feel that way. We could feel them.”
Franklin says, “I’m doing things now to ensure that people who come behind me can live more free.”
Read the rest at Dig Boston.
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