“Ritual reckoning” by Vanessa German Honors Will Brown
The art showcase by the Union of Contemporary Art (24th and Lake Streets) honors victims of lethal violence. The expression took place on September 14th; please read their statement below.
Today, we remember Will Brown. The horror of his brutal lynching has now haunted our city for a full century. Today, we remember Will Brown. We remember the smiling faces of those present at his burning, their hands black with lantern oil. Today, we remember Will Brown. We remember his brief life, the long shadow of his death, and the work still to do in healing the scars of division lingering in this country.
Two weeks ago, Union exhibiting artist Vanessa German and 7 local performers marked the ground on which Will Brown spent his final moments, walking 2.5 miles from The Union to the Douglas County Courthouse. This "ritual reckoning" gave expression to the compounded grief of generations lost to acts of racist violence. The ritual also beautifully, miraculously invoked the joyful ecstasy of the living, dancing, loving human body.
This clip highlights just one moment from the day. As Vanessa notes in her artist statement: "the living reckoning insists on centering the Technology of the Soul, as a radical instrument of justice. The Technology of the Soul resides within the momentum of truth that the past is not dead, it is not even past, It exerts constant pressure on the present & can be mined for strategic ingredients to be used for intentional & creative future making. All of this is Love."
This weekend, there are multiple opportunities to mark this dark anniversary. Remembering the lynching of Will Brown will occur at 9am today on the north steps of the Douglas County Courthouse, and will include music, prayer, and a soil collection ceremony.
The play Red Summer by Beaufield Berry at the Bluebarn Theatre presents a "deeply affecting vision of Will's life and relationships before he became a tragic headline." Today's performance is sold out, but it runs through October 20th.
On Sunday (9/29) the Great Plains Black History Museum will host a "Community Workshop" in connection with its new exhibit, The History of Lynching's Throughout the Great Plains of America, facilitated by LeClara Gilreath (2–3:30 pm).
Also on Sunday, (1–5 pm) The Durham Museum is offering Free Admission Day for RACE: Are We So Different? Developed by the American Anthropological Association and the Science Museum of Minnesota, the exhibit is on view through January 5.
Thank you to Nick Beaulieu for the "ritual reckoning" videography and editing work along with Harrison Martin. Thanks also to Stable Gray for the contribution of arial footage from the day.
Finally, thank you for the deeply powerful work of the day's performers Dawaune Lamont Hayes, Liz Gre, Mary Lawson, Aaliyah Leacock, Nadia Ra'Shaun Williams, TammyRa', and Mariah Person. Huge thank you as well to Union team members Nicole J. Caruth and De Chap for their guidance in organizing the performance.
Today we remember Will Brown. May he rest in power.