A Time for Seditious Speech

Seminar 5 of Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness Sat 13 Apr 2019 1.00PM-3.30PM Weeksville Heritage Center
158 Dr. Joan Maynard Way/Buffalo Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11213

Reception to follow.

Admission is free but registration is required. On registration, participants will receive preparatory reading material.
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[Please note: suggested readings and, eventually, program, summary, and video documentation can be found at bottom of this page.]

Free speech for African Americans has always been affected by space. These spaces are socially produced, made by people, groups, and institutions. The Free Black press in the early 19th century created a national space that promoted a radical new order for society, as articulated at the Colored Conventions, where already free and once captive Black people came together between 1830 and the 1890s to strategize about political, social, and legal justice. At one such convention, in 1843 in Buffalo, New York, the Reverend Henry Highland Garnet delivered a rousing speech that shocked the delegates to the convention. Later referred to as the Call to Rebellion speech, Garnet asked his brothers to turn against their masters, affirming that "neither god, nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral, intellectual, and physical that promises success." The speech entreated enslaved Africans in the South to secure liberty through resistance.

As part of the year-long seminar series Freedom of Speech: Curriculum for Studies into Darkness, A Time for Seditious Speech proposes speech as a call to direct action, perhaps even violence. The event will begin with a performative reading of Garnet's Call to Rebellion that will lead the public on a procession through the historic grounds of Weeksville, where professional and student actors will read portions of the text against the background of the gardens and Hunterfly Road Houses.

A discussion will follow, moderated by historian and writer Kazembe Balagun, with curator and historian Prithi Kanakemedala, media and technology lawyer Nabiha Syed, and artists Michael Rakowitz and Dread Scott. Scott is currently developing the restaging the largest slave revolt in American history, the 1811 German Coast uprising in New Orleans.

Inspired by a more recent rebellion -- Denmark Vesey's 1822 slave uprising in Charleston, South Carolina -- Garnet employed the societal mores enmeshed in the "peculiar institution of slavery" in his rebellious rhetoric, thus subverting their power and practicing free speech to expand ideas of citizenship and create equitable spaces for people of color. Set at Weeksville, one of the first intentional communities of free Black people in New York, A Time for Seditious Speech will engage participants through immersive performance and dialogue around Garnet's oratorical missive and raise questions that continue to shape the national discourse.

Those who registered, and
Kazembe Balagun, cultural historian, activist, and writer
Rob Fields, President & Executive Director, Weeksville Heritage Center
Prithi Kanakamedala, Ph.D., Bronx Community College CUNY
Michael Rakowitz, artist
Dread Scott, artist
Nabiha Syed, General Counsel, The Markup

Actors and performers
Zenzelé Cooper
Alphonse Fabien
Jeremiah Hosea
Travis Raeburn
Sean C. Turner
Nana Kwame Williams

Weeksville is also the site of Seminar 1 participants Mendi + Keith Obadike's installation Utopias: Seeking for a City, that can be visited before or after Seditious Speech.

The seminar series Freedom of Speech. A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness is organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics as part of the center's 2018–2020 curatorial focus If Art Is Politics. It is directed by Carin Kuoni, Director/Chief Curator, Vera List Center, and Laura Raicovich with assistance by Gabriela López Dena. Partner organizations for the seminars are ARTICLE 19; the National Coalition Against Censorship; New York Peace Institute; and Weeksville Heritage Center.

Seminar 5 is co-curated by Weeksville Heritage Center.
    • A Time For Seditious Speech
      • K VLC. A Time for Seditious Speech. SUGGESTED READINGS Download - pdf (201 kB)
      • K VLC. A Time for Seditious Speech. RAKOWITZ LETTER Download - pdf (511 kB)
      • K VLC. A Time for Seditious Speech. PROGRAM Download - pdf (4.78 MB)
      • K VLC. A Time For Seditious Speech. SUMMARY Download - pdf (165 kB)
A Time for Seditious Speech is the fifth in a series of seminars dedicated to Freedom of Speech. Other seminars in this series include:

Seminar 1: Mapping the Territory
Monday, November 12, 2018
Partner organization: The National Coalition Against Censorship

Seminar 2: Feminist Manifestos
Monday, December 3, 2018

Seminar 3: Pervasive and Personal: Observations on Free Speech Online
Monday, February 11, 2019
Partner organization: ARTICLE 19

Seminar 4: Say It Like You Mean It: On Translation, Communication, Languages
Monday, March 11, 2019

Seminar 5: A Time for Seditious Speech
Saturday, April 13, 2019
Partner organization: Weeksville Heritage Center
@ Weeksville Heritage Center

Seminar 6: Going Towards the Heat: Speaking Across Difference
Monday, June 10, 2019
Partner organization: New York Peace Institute

Closing Convening
Friday & Saturday, September 20 & 21, 2019