The award-winning Billie Holiday Theatre has today announced the world premiere of the ground-breaking "A Walk Into Slavery". As 2019 marks the 400th year of the first enslaved Africans brought to the Jamestown settlement in America, The Billie will present this multi-media meditation experience as it takes audiences on an evocative and emotional historical expedition to the genesis of the Transatlantic slave trade as seen through the lens of one man’s journey. Conceived and directed by Indira Etwaroo, Executive Director of The Billie, this compelling new work follows award-winning international designer and photographer Hollis King from his native home of Trinidad to Brooklyn, and then as he traces his steps back to West Ghana's slave castles - what were for many the final stop before they reached the Americas. With poetry created and performed by celebrated writer and recording artist Carl Hancock Rux, A Walk Into Slavery will run for one week only at The Billie from April 30th -May 4th and will also include vocals by artist and Brooklyn-native Marcelle Davies-Lashley.
Grappling with the notion of home and what is lost when one is forcibly displaced and must redefine the concept of home on American soil, "A Walk Into Slavery" shapes it’s narrative with historic photographs dating back to the 1800s; pencil sketches, journal entries, and original photographs by King; and a haunting lighting design that assumes the character of time created by Devin Cameron.
“400 years after the first group of Africans were brought to the Americas enslaved, we are still dealing with the residual effects of slavery and the consequences of it as a nation. There is still systemic injustice. There is still a lot of healing in front of us, as a people and as a nation. 400 years later,” said Dr. Etwaroo. “We wanted to approach this historical moment as boldly and bravely as possible. Art allows us to ask unique questions in unique ways; questions to help move us forward. With "A Walk Into Slavery", I want audiences to find a way forward because, in order for us to move forward, we must first look back.”
Set in the round in The Billie’s New Community Studio space, "A Walk Into Slavery" ensures an intimate and interactive exchange between artist and the audience.
This was a journey I avoided for many years. Once I made the decision to move forward, I first asked myself, ‘How did I get here?’ and then ‘how did we get here?” From there I began tracing my steps back, leading me to a spiritual reawakening in Ghana at the slave castles,” said King. “It was a completely transcendent experience and, now, to have The Billie create such an incredible work from my journey and to be able to share it with others is an amazing feeling because although
"A Walk Into Slavery" is based on my personal experience, it is really OUR journey as a people.”
Since its inception in 1972, The Billie Holiday Theatre has continued to reinforce its role as a leader in presenting and championing Black Theater; as a vital resource for its surrounding Bedford Stuyvesant community and beyond; and as a platform for artists to address issues of social justice encompassing a diverse range of groundbreaking, provocative works presenting diverse stories from across the African Diaspora.
In August of 1619, the first African men and women arrived by ship to Point Comfort, which is present-day Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia when John Rolfe, Secretary and Recorder General of Virginia, recorded the arrival of “20 and odd Negroes,” marking the beginning of the social construct in colonial America where citizens of Africa were taken unwillingly from their homeland, transplanted, and committed to lifelong slavery and racial discrimination. 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of that first recorded slave ship.
Last year, Ghana kicked-off the “Year of Return,” an opportunity to unite the people in the Diaspora with their kin in Africa, with its launch in Washington D.C., in October 2018. This was followed by the Full Circle Festival last December, where more than 70 African-American notables visited Ghana to reconnect with their African heritage. The "Year of Return" commemorates the 400th year of the extraordinary sacrifices, achievements and contributions Africans in the Diaspora made to the lives of the Americans.
Previews: Tue, Wed & Thu at 11AM | Tue & Wed at 7PM | Opening Night on Thu at 7PM
Weekend Performances Fri at 11AM, 7PM & 9PM and Sat at 2PM, 7PM & 9PM
General admission tickets for the performances are $30 and available for purchase online at thebillieholiday.org.