Gather Returns to Guild Hall

Gather: Conversations led by Black and Indigenous Change-Makers is returning this summer, sponsored by Guild Hall in East Hampton. Gather is a celebration of the East End’s diversity, a recognition of fault and colonization, and, most importantly, an opportunity to build and implement new understandings. 

Devised specifically for community leaders, service workers, teachers, and developers, this series gives a platform to the voices and experiences of BIPOC scholars, artists, and leaders, providing both lessons on our past histories, and strategies and examples of how to progress forward together. The series of four events spans from Friday, July 16 to Monday, July 19. 

This iteration of Gather is programmed in tandem with the Guild Hall exhibition, “Alexis Rockman: Shipwrecks.” Proceeds from this series aid the education initiatives at Guild Hall of East Hampton, the development of Ma’s House & BIPOC Art Studio, and the institutions and artists involved. 

The series kicks off Friday, July 16 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. with “Left Behind/Within,” a shared meal and evening of spoken word and communal discussion with poet and storyteller Andrina Wekontash Smith, reflecting on her relationship to her ancestors and the inherited griefs Shinnecock hold but are told to leave behind.  

This event is held outdoors at Ma’s House & BIPOC Studio on Shinnecock. All are asked to bring their own seating – blanket, mat, etc. Tickets are $35.

On Saturday, July 17 from 10 a.m. to noon, and again from 2 to 4 p.m., join Tuktu Paddle PT on a guided paddle tour of aboriginal Shinnecock waterways to learn about indigenous plants, culture, landmarks and more. 

Each tour is led by Tuktu PT founder Gerrod Smith, and includes a short hike along Shinnecock’s private coastlands and, if the tides flow right, a fresh taste of local shellfish handpicked from Shinnecock Bay. 

Each tour is limited to 12 people. Tickets are $50 per person [$35 for Guild Hall members] The rental of a single-person kayak, two-person kayak, or three-person canoe is included with registration. 

On Sunday, July 17 at 4:30 p.m., the discussion continues at Guild Hall in East Hampton with a book talk on “Whaling Captains of Color: America’s First Meritocracy” with author Skip Finley with historians Donnamarie Barnes and Dr. Georgette Grier Key. Tickets are $15.

Whaling was the first American industry to exhibit any diversity, and the proportion of men of color who participated was quite high. 

A man got to be captain not because he was white or well connected, but because he knew how to kill a whale. Along the way he would also learn navigation and how to read and write. Whaling presented a tantalizing alternative to mainland life.

Mr. Finley culls the best stories from the lives of over 50 whaling captains of color to share the story of America’s First Meritocracy. 

Many of the historic houses that decorate Skip Finley’s native Martha’s Vineyard were originally built by whaling captains. 

Whether in his village of Oak Bluffs, on the island of Nantucket where whaling burgeoned, or in New Bedford, which became the City of Light thanks to whale oil, these magnificent homes testify to the money made from whaling. 

In terms of oil, the triangle connecting Martha’s Vineyard and Eastern Long Island was the Middle East of its day. Whale wealth was astronomical, and endures in the form of land trusts, roads, hotels, docks, businesses, homes, churches and parks. Whaling revenues were invested into railroads and the textile industry. Millions of whales died in the 200-plus-year enterprise, with more than 2,700 ships built for chasing, killing and processing them. 

The series concludes on Monday, July 19 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. with an open dialogue and lecture on the understandings, teachings, and significance of Wampum at Guild Hall. Tickets are $15. 

Chief Harry Wallace and Tecumseh Ceaser lead a conversation on traditional practices, historical accounts and lessons, and what contemporary carvers have “learned from the shell.” 

“Wampum has been used in my culture in ceremonies, regalia, trade agreements, and treaties to connect our people and remind them of their connection to the water and earth, which gives us life and food,” says Tecumseh Ceaser. “We as eastern woodland natives treasure wampum; its beautiful colors allow us to wear it with pride and know that our ancestors have been working with it for thousands of years. My artwork allows me to connect with my ancestors by carrying on their traditions and saying to the world we are still here, and we are still connected with our genealogical ties to the land.”

To register for any of these events, visit guildhall.org.

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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