Premiering at the Ashé Cultural Arts Center on Sunday, August 25, “Maroon Messengers Calling: Past, Present & Beyond,” a mixed-media experimental performance, will delve into the often unexplored stories of the Maroons, a group of African descendants who–after escaping from plantations and slavery–mixed with groups of Native Americans through creolization.
“Most people are familiar with the underground railroad stories of enslaved Africans who ran away to the Northern states and Canada,” says poet and playwright Deidre “CreativeSoul” Gantt, who spent this summer as an artist-in-residence with Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society, a local Mardi Gras Indian community that celebrates its Maroon heritage. “The Maroons ran from slavery too, but they chose to exit American society altogether. They created hidden communities all over North America, the Caribbean, and South America in hills, swamps, bayous, and other remote, dangerous terrain where slave catchers feared to tread. But the history books hardly ever mention them.”
To prepare for this project, the creative team behind “Maroon Messengers Calling” visited Jamestown in Virginia, the site of the first permanent English colony in North America and a reminder of the “20 and odd” Africans who were sold into slavery there in 1619. Also on the creative team’s preliminary itinerary, Louisiana’s Destrehan Plantation and the Great Dismal Swamp–an area that borders Virginia and North Carolina and for 100 years before the Civil War acted as a refuge for 30,000 runaways and Maroons–acted as sources of inspiration during the team’s creative process.
“Maroon Messengers Calling” will feature spoken word by Gantt and special guest Chuck Perkins, visual art by Cherice Harrison-Nelson (Maroon Queen of Guardians of the Flame Maroon Society), original music by Nkem Big Chief Brian-Michael Harrison-Nelson and a musical ensemble consisting of the Mardi Gras Indian Collective Young Guardians of the Flame and Congo Kids, who will close the show with a performance in their Mardi Gras Indian attire. Adella Gautier and technical director John Grimsley comprise the production team, with Nkem Big Chief Brian-Michael Harrison-Nelson acting as musical director, lyricist and producer.
The event will start at 4 p.m. and end at 6 p.m. at the Ashé Power House, which is located at 1731 Baronne St. A donation of $10 is recommended for entry. For information regarding the event, visit the Ashé Cultural Arts Center website, here.