Celebrating “Africaville” on the South Fork

Numerous arts and cultural institutions on the South Fork are celebrating a visit this weekend by Jeffrey Colvin, author of the novel “Africaville,” about a small Nova Scotia town settled in the waning years of the eighteenth century by formerly enslaved people.

The debut novel was awarded the Honor Fiction Prize by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association.

The weekend’s events, dubbed “Present Tense: Black Lives Matter(ed),” include an art exhibit, workshop, panel discussion and a staged reading of the book, co-sponsored by the Sag Harbor Partnership, Guild Hall, The Church, Arts Center at Duck Creek, The East Hampton Star and Canio’s Books.

“Africaville” chronicles three generations of the Sebolt family—Kath Ella, her son Etienne, and her grandson Warner — whose lives unfold against the tumultuous events of the twentieth century. The story takes readers from Nova Scotia to Montreal, New England and the Deep South as it explores notions of identity, passing, cross-racial relationships, the importance of place, and the meaning of home. It also offers insights into the outrage against racism and oppression that has sparked protests not only in America but around the world.

The events include “Out of the Loop,” art installation with sound, and Africaville x Plain Sight Project discussion at the Arts Center At Duck Creek, Springs; Staged Reading, Africaville at John Drew Backyard Theater, Guild Hall;  and Writing the Past to Right the Future, Activist Panel at The Church, Sag Harbor.

The book is available through Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.

“Out of The Loop,” on view from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at The Arts Center at Duck Creek (127 Squaw Rd, Springs), is an installation by Mr. Colvin, with sound design by the author and DJ Potts.

“We must move Out of The Loop, repeating the same egregious injustices inflicted on Black communities — day after day, year after year, century after century,” says Mr. Colvin. “And we must move out of the loop of repeating the same ineffective responses. We need new insights, but also a national will to do better. This installation — looping audio of media reports about racial injustices along with excerpts of “Africaville,” invites the viewer to enter this conversation and carry away their own insights and desires for action.”

This installation is part of The Arts Center at Duck Creek’s participation in The Plain Sight Project, exploring the histories of enslaved people on the East End.

The Plain Sight Project is also sponsoring a talk by Mr. Colvin on Saturday, Aug. 15 at 5 p.m. — the event is currently full, but a recording of the talk will be posted at www.duckcreekarts.org.

Donnamarie Barnes and David Rattray of the Plain Sight Project will be joined by Mr. Colvin to discuss how the stories in his book relate to those of enslaved people on the East End of Long Island, and share their thoughts on how both his Out of the Loop installation at Duck Creek and their Plain Sight Project seek to support our “national will to do better.”

Also on Saturday evening, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m., Guild Hall in East Hampton (158 Main Street, East Hampton) will present a staged reading of “Africaville,” directed by Andrina Wekontash Smith. Tickets are $100 per lawn circle, which seats one to two people.

Ms. Smith’s unique perspectives as a storyteller, a Shinnecock native, and a member of a multigenerational family legacy uniquely equips her to bring themes and scenes from Colvin’s novel to the stage.

“The cyclical nature with which our society revisits the ongoing racial structures of oppression occurs with devastating repetition. The echoes of our past resonate in the song of today and whether in directing, writing, sketch comedy, or performing, Smith explores the way in which that tune underscores our daily life,” according to the organizers.

On Sunday, Aug. 16 at 5 p.m., The Church in Sag Harbor (48 Madison Street) will present an activist panel discussion with Mr. Colvin and director Andrina Wekontash Smith. They will be joined by local cultural leader Bonnie Michelle Cannon, activist Willie Jenkins, Mental Health Professional Allanah Evans and moderator Sara Cochran to discuss the pressing issues of our time

This is a free event, but it is limited to 35 attendees who RSVP via email.

The panel will discuss social justice and the prison system, police brutality and social protest as well as the specific struggle of Black communities in face of the Covid-19 Pandemic.

For more details on this program, contact organizer Christine Sciulli at africavillepresenttense@gmail.com or 917.365.6850.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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