Pictured Above: Detail of Michael A. Butler’s portrait David Hempstead, Senior: The Seasons of a Man’s Life (2023), as seen in Forgotten Founders: David Hempstead, Senior.

The Sag Harbor Cinema plays host Saturday, Feb. 25 to a film screening and art opening for “Forgetting to Remember,” a collaboration with the Plain Sight Project, which is working to unearth the identities and stories of enslaved, indentured, and free people of color on the East End.

“Forgetting to Remember,” an 18-month collaboration between the Sag Harbor Cinema and the Plain Sight Project, is made possible by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Congressionally Directed Community Project Funding, sponsored by Senator Chuck Schumer.

The collaboration “intends to develop new audiences through continued archival research, public exhibitions and events, a short-form documentary film, and curriculum development, recounting a more inclusive understanding of our collective history,” according to the cinema.

The Feb. 25 program kicks off at 5 p.m. with the documentary short “Forgotten Founders: David Hempstead, Senior,” directed by local filmmakers Sam Hamilton and Julian Alvarez. The film tells the story of the life of David Hempstead, Senior, tracing him from slavery to freedom. His children were founding members of the Eastville community in Sag Harbor.

The screening will be followed by a “Projections” Q&A, with the filmmakers and Donnamarie Barnes and David Rattray, Co-Directors of the Plain Sight Project. The talk will be moderated by Dr. Jennifer L. Morgan, Professor of Social & Cultural Analysis at New York University.

The screening and Q&A will be followed at 6:30 p.m. by an opening reception of the work of Sag Harbor artist Michael A. Butler, a self-described “narrative folk artist,” with thematic rooms that commemorate the legacies and stories of enslaved, indentured, and free people of color on the East End.

Mr. Butler, an artist, historian and humanitarian, has been deeply involved in the Sag Harbor community for decades, on the board of the Eastville Community Historical Society, the St. David AME Zion Church cemetery, and as a member of East Hampton’s Anti-Bias Task Force, a lifetime member of the NAACP, a former board member of the East End AIDS Wellness Project and a former member of the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center.

The exhibit will also feature interactive digital mapping technology that allows visitors to trace the locations of enslaved, indentured, and free people of color in Sag Harbor and beyond, developed in collaboration with the Vanderbilt Institute for Spatial Research. 

Tickets are free , but registration is required ahead of time for this limited-capacity event. Register Online Here. A website, forgettingtorememberproject.org, is also under development.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she 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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