Dialogue on Race, Agriculture, and Living History

Accokeek Foundation

On March 24, 2017 the Accokeek Foundation convened a Dialogue on Race, Agriculture, and Living History at the University of Maryland College Park in partnership with the university’s Department of American Studies. The Dialogue brought together a diverse group of fifty people in what was a day of rich discussion using the Accokeek Foundation’s National Colonial Farm and its work in Piscataway Park as a case study. This report provides an overview of the event from how it was structured and who participated to key themes that emerged and feedback that was received. Also included here are opportunities to connect to the discussion through sound. Listen to actors from dog & pony dc perform the 10-minute play “Telling the Story of a Landscape,” written specifically for this event. Immerse yourself in soundscapes created by sound artist Erik Spangler and his students from Maryland Institute College of Art using recordings from the discussions. Our goal with this report is to extend engagement beyond a single day of discussion. We hope that this will be a catalyst for many more conversations on “race, agriculture, and living history.”

Thank you to the UMD Department of American Studies for hosting and to the funders who made this event possible – Maryland Humanities and the Corina Higginson Trust. Thank you to Braden Paynter and International Coalition of Sites of Conscience; Rachel Grossman and the actor/facilitators from dog & pony dc (Ivania Stack, Jon Reynolds, DeJeanette Horne, Jordana Fraider); Dr. Erik Spangler and students from Maryland Institute College of Art; Theodore Manekin; and scholars Dr. Gail Christopher, Dr. Denise Meringolo, Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, and Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson. But above all, a deep and heartfelt “thank you” to all of the participants who embraced the process and gave so generously of their time, expertise, and life experience.

Dr. Lisa Hayes, President and CEO
Accokeek Foundation

This project was made possible by a grant from Maryland Humanities, through support from the National Endowment of the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations, expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of National Endowment of the Humanities or Maryland Humanities

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Who Participated

Though the initial plan for the Dialogue had been to cast a wide net and extend an invitation to the general public, the organizing team recognized that it would be more practical and useful to reach out to people already connected to this topic in some way. To that end, the invitation was distributed electronically through a variety of networks that included museums, urban agriculture organizations, nonprofit funders, academics (history, archaeology, agriculture, American Studies), social justice, Accokeek Foundation volunteers, genealogists, and others.

Institutions represented at the Dialogue included Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Sotterley, National Park Service, National Park Foundation, Menare Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Diane and Norman Bernstein Foundation, Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Smithsonian  National Museum of the American Indian, University of Maryland College Park, University of Maryland Baltimore County, American University, Maryland Indian Tourism Association, Dreaming Out Loud, Prince George’s County Public Schools, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, dog & pony dc, Accokeek Foundation, Alice Ferguson Foundation, and Maryland Humanities. Of the fifty people who participated, approximately half were people of color, ranging in age from 20 to 82, with twice as many women as men.

Program / Agenda

9:30a              REGISTRATION AND NETWORKING
10:00a            WELCOME

Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, Chair, University of Maryland Department of American Studies
OVERVIEW OF EVENT, GOALS AND LOGISTICS

Dr. Lisa Hayes, President and CEO, Accokeek Foundation

10:15a INTRODUCTIONS

Braden Paynter (International Coalition of Sites of Conscience) asked participants to introduce themselves to someone they had not met before and share what drew them to participate in the dialogue.

10:20a INTRODUCTION OF KEYNOTE SPEAKER

Paul Lovelace, Director of Agriculture, Accokeek Foundation
KEYNOTE

Dr. Gail C. Christopher, W.K. Kellogg Foundation Senior Advisor and Vice President for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Initiative

10:45a PERFORMANCE –  “TELLING THE STORY OF A LANDSCAPE”

Written by Lisa Hayes

Performed by dog & pony dc

11:15a BREAK OUT SESSION ONE

Responding to the Play and Initial Thoughts
Participants were divided into five groups. Facilitators included Braden Paynter (ICSOC) and the four actors from dog & pony dc. Groups discussed the play and initial thoughts, focusing on challenges and opportunities, intersections, connections, etc. Each group synthesized its discussion by writing a haiku or creating some other kind of artistic rendering.  

12:00p LUNCH. Free discussion.
12:45p SHARING OF HAIKUS AND OTHER GROUP REFLECTIONS FROM BREAKOUT SESSION ONE

BREAKOUT SESSION TWO

Envisioning Inclusive Interpretation at a Historical Agriculture Site
The following questions were posted on flip chart pages for each group. Participants were given markers and time to add comments or responses to each question, or suggest new questions.  This was followed by discussion, during which additional items were added to the pages.
THE QUESTIONS

  • What stories need to be told here?
  • How might this place, and the stories that it tells, best connect people to the land?
  • How could the stories of non-European people and their connection to this agricultural landscape be put at the center of the visitor experience?
  • In what ways do our perceptions of 18th century and agricultural history inform our contemporary relationship to agriculture and the land?
  • What interpretive mediums have you found most memorable or impactful at this or other historical sites? (First person costumed interpreters, theatrical performance, audio tours, self-guided walking tour, guided tour, etc.)
  • Who do we need to talk to next and how do we share what we are planning? How can you help?”
2:00p BREAK.
2:30p PANEL DISCUSSION AND OPEN FORUM – INSIGHTS FROM DIALOGUE

Facilitated by Braden Paynter (International Coalition of Sites of Conscience)

  • Dr. Gail C. Christopher (W.K. Kellogg Foundation Senior Advisor and Vice President for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Initiative)
  • Dr. Denise Meringolo (Associate Professor and Director of Public History at UMBC)
  • Dr. Gabrielle Tayac (Historian, National Museum of the American Indian)
  • Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson (Chair, UMD American Studies)
3:30p FINAL WORDS AND ADJOURN
Dr. Gail C. Christopher, D.N., W.K. Kellogg Foundation

Dr. Gail C. Christopher, D.N.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Senior Advisor and Vice President for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT)

Dr. Gail Christopher is senior advisor and vice president at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this role, she leads the foundation’s Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) enterprise and serves on the president’s cabinet that provides overall direction and leadership for the foundation. Since joining the foundation in 2007, Gail has served as vice president for program strategy with responsibility for multiple areas of programming, including Racial Equity; Food, Health & Well-Being; Public Policy; Community Engagement and Leadership; as well as place-based programming in New Orleans and New Mexico.

Gail is a nationally recognized leader in health policy, with particular expertise and experience in the issues related to social determinants of health, health inequities and public policy issues of concern to our nation’s future. Her distinguished career and contributions to public service were honored in 1996 when she was elected as a fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. In 2011 she was awarded the “Change Agent Award” by the Schott Foundation for Public Education; in 2012 she was the recipient of the Association of Maternal & Child Health Programs (AMCHP) John C. MacQueen Lecture Award for her innovation and leadership in the field of maternal and child health. Most recently in 2015 she was the recipient of the Terrance Keenan award for Grantmakers in Health. She is chair of the board of the Trust for America’s Health.

A prolific writer and presenter, Gail is the author or co-author of three books, a monthly column in the Federal Times, and more than 250 articles, presentations and publications.

Gail has more than 30 years of experience in designing and managing national initiatives and nonprofit organizations. She is founder and president of the Maryland based Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature.

Dr. Lisa Hayes, President and CEO Accokeek Foundation

Dr. Lisa Hayes
President and CEO, Accokeek Foundation

Lisa became President of the Accokeek Foundation in 2011, bringing with her more than 20 years experience in arts administration, educational theater, oral history and museums. She is an alumna of the Noyce Leadership Institute and Leadership Prince George’s, and currently serves as co-chair of the Potomac River Heritage Tourism Alliance.  Before receiving her doctorate in American Studies from the State University of New York at Buffalo, she was a professional actress and playwright and continues to practice her craft when time allows. (she wrote the play being performed today).  Her one-woman shows include Jane Eyre, Nurse! and Finding the Light, all of which she has performed both in the U.S. and abroad.

Dr. Denise Meringolo, Associate Professor of History & Director of Public History, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dr. Denise Meringolo
Associate Professor of History and Director of Public History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Dr. Meringolo received her PhD in American Studies from The George Washington University in 2005. Her book, Museums, Monuments, and National Parks:  Toward a New Genealogy of Public History (University of Massachusetts, 2012) won the 2013 book prize from the National Council on Public History. Her current projects include Radical Roots: Civic Engagement, Public History, and a Tradition of Social Justice Activism, a collaborative research project designed to broaden the accepted genealogy of public history, and Preserve the Baltimore Uprising, a community collections project.

Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, Historian, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

Dr. Gabrielle Tayac
Historian, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian

After graduating from Cornell University with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and American Indian Studies and serving as a Ralph Bunche Human Rights Fellow at Amnesty International, Gabrielle Tayac went on to receive a Master of Arts and a PhD in Sociology from Harvard University. In addition to her current position as Historian, Dr. Tayac has served in other positions at the National Museum of the American Indian, including Director of Education and Curator. She has many exhibits to her credit, including The Native Landscape; Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake; and IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas. Dr. Tayac is a member of the Piscataway Indian Nation. Her grandfather, Chief Turkey Tayac, is buried in Piscataway Park.

Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, Associate Professor and Chair of American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park

Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson
Associate Professor and Chair of American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park

Dr.Williams-Forson received her PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland. In addition to her current leadership role, she has also served as the department’s Director of Graduate Studies. She is an affiliate faculty member of the women’s studies and African American studies departments, as well as anthropology/archaeology. She is an associate editor of Food and Foodways journal, co-editor (with Carole Counihan) of Taking Food Public: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World (Routledge 2011) and author of Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power (2006).  Her new book focuses on food shaming and food policing in Black communities. Dr. Williams-Forson is also the recipient of numerous fellowships including a Smithsonian Museum Senior Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Diversity Fellowship, and a Winterthur Museum and Library Fellowship.

Braden Paynter, Program Manager for Methodology and Practice, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience

Braden Paynter
Program Manager for Methodology and Practice, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience

Braden supports Sites of Conscience members in developing programming that brings vitality to their sites and visitors. He also works with members to ensure that they get the most out of their membership. Braden’s past work has focused on using public education spaces to connect people to each other and the world around them. He has worked with historic homes, museums, parks, and a zoo to make their programming and exhibits more challenging, open, and indispensable to their communities. Before joining the Coalition, Braden worked with the National Park Service at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site where he oversaw public, education, and professional development programs, web and social media, and exhibits.

Erik Spangler (DJ Dubble8)

Erik Spangler

Erik Spangler (DJ Dubble8) is a composer and electronic musician living in Baltimore, Maryland. Engaged equally with ensemble improvisation, live electronics, studio production, and notated chamber music, Spangler aims to dissolve cultural boundaries while drawing all corners of inspiration into evocative sound images. His compositions have been performed across the United States and internationally by ensembles including the Atlantic Brass Quintet, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Rhymes With Opera, and International Contemporary Ensemble. Performances as a turntablist/electronic musician include collaborations with Chesapeake Youth Symphony Orchestra, AU Jazz Workshop, Cornell Symphony Orchestra, and Ithaca College Percussion Ensemble. Founder of The Vigil all-night music festival at MICA (2010-present), he is also co-founder of Mobtown Modern music series (2008-12) and the Baltimore Boom Bap Society (2011-present). His multimedia collaboration with old-time music duo Anna & Elizabeth, From The Mountains: Hazel Dickens In Baltimore, received a New Music USA project grant in 2014. Spangler holds degrees from Oberlin College Conservatory of Music (B.M., Music Composition) and Harvard University (Ph.D., Music Composition), and currently teaches Sound Art classes as an adjunct faculty member of the Interactive Arts Department at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

dog & pony dc

dog & pony dc

This ensemble of Hearing and Deaf theatre artists create interactions that connect people in unexpected ways to each other, art, and/or the wider world. The company seeks to upend the way non-profit theatre is made and consumed, repositioning it in service to its audience and community.

Opening Remarks by Dr. Lisa Hayes

 

Accokeek Foundation President and CEO Lisa Hayes introduced the event with the following remarks:

I was at our National Colonial Farm one Saturday when I came across a family group, three generations of an African American family living in Prince George’s County. The children were enthralled by the sheep and the chickens, their middle-aged mothers were talking with our interpreter in the small log kitchen, and I struck up a conversation with the elderly gentleman in the group, who I would guess to be about 80.  He talked about the beautiful farm at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains that is still in the family, about what a successful farmer his grandfather had been. How his grandfather had been born into slavery and when he was 6 years old he’d watched his father being taken away on the back of a wagon, sitting between two white men, having just been sold.

This elderly gentleman’s younger brother started asking me questions about the farm, so I told him how the Accokeek Foundation had helped save this land from development sixty years ago, leading the effort to create a national park that would preserve the view from George Washington’s Mount Vernon just across the Potomac River, and that preserving this view had preserved something even more historically significant, the sacred homeland of the Piscataway people. He told me that when he visits historic places like this, “I like to close my eyes, breathe in the ancestors, and ask them to give me a tour.”

Just over nine years ago the Accokeek Foundation’s Board of Trustees determined that interpreting African American and Native American history and culture was a strategic priority for our work in Piscataway Park. I had just joined the organization as education manager. I was finishing up a PhD in American Studies and entering what has become a whole new career of leading a nonprofit land trust/living history museum/sustainable agriculture farm/indigenous cultural landscape. My first big project was working with then board member Gabrielle Tayac in organizing a Native American Scholarly Colloquium to explore how to communicate the significance of this place in Piscataway history and culture. We brought together representatives from three bands of the Piscataway people, and scholars and interpreters of American Indian history in the Chesapeake. It was my first taste of how powerful and enlightening it can be to bring together a group like we have here today for a conversation about interpretation as it relates to a special place and landscape.

The Accokeek Foundation’s programs have grown and evolved over the last several years. A new strategic plan three years ago set us on the course of uniting all of our work under the umbrella of sustainability. We now use colonial history as a lens to engage visitors in contemporary environmental issues. And one of the programs that most directly brings together every aspect of the foundation’s work, from land stewardship and heritage breed livestock to historical and sustainable agriculture, is the Agriculture Conservation Corps, a 7-week paid summer internship for 15 Prince George’s County high school students. One of the instigating factors for this reexamination of how and what we interpret at the colonial farm came from experiences with these students, from a student hiding from visitors out of fear they would think he was “playing a slave” to other students calling our interns “slaves” on learning that they were working on a farm – not even a “colonial” farm, simply “a farm.”

Today is about engaging in conversation, learning from each other about our experiences related to the topic of race, agriculture and living history. The Accokeek Foundation will be using what we learn to help shape our next steps in figuring out how to better engage visitors in the landscape and its stories in Piscataway Park. Aside from that, I hope that everyone walks away from today with some new insights, perhaps some inspiration that fuels your own work, and some new connections in this community.

A couple of days ago there was an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review about why cultural institutions must lead the way in civic engagement.  The author made the point that cultural institution “must be places driven by artists, culture bearers, philosophers, and activists. They must be platforms for cultivating public imagination; building thick and diverse networks; convening across differences and sectors; and incubating breakthrough ideas that stick, because they spring from communities that come together to embrace truth, honor diversity, and poetically pursue freedom.” Thank you for being a part of this community and going on this journey with a dialogue on race, agriculture, and living history.

One of the instigating factors for this reexamination of how and what we interpret at the colonial farm came from experiences with these students, from a student hiding from visitors out of fear they would think he was “playing a slave” to other students calling our interns “slaves” on learning that they were working on a farm – not even a “colonial” farm, simply “a farm.”  

Keynote by Dr. Gail C. Christopher

Putting the Dialogue in Context

 

Dr. Gail Christopher’s keynote provided context for this Dialogue. After asking everyone “to take a moment of silence and invite the ancestors to be with us today,” she began by describing the difference between race and racism:

“Race is really a social construct that has no grounding in biology, but had its genesis in a myth in the field of biology and botany. Racism is the belief system, the construct that grew out of 18th century taxonomy of the human family.

We live with taxonomies in every system we have in the country, in the world. We have botanical taxonomies. We have animal taxonomies. But this one was given to the human family by Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist.  He was building on the work that had been going on for centuries, which was largely propagated by the Catholic Church and the doctrine of discovery. It was around the time the printing press was created that this taxonomy was really embraced by science and then philosophy. And so we had this crazy notion that the human family had these layers of value. And of course the philosophers put themselves at the top of that hierarchy. People who looked like them had more value than anybody else. And they were white males.

Our understanding of the gene, the genome, and evolution tells us that we developed our superficial physical characteristics – our ancestors did – in adaptation to the environments in which they lived. The shape of our noses, the color of our skin, the texture of our hair  – it was all about humanity evolving into and adapting to the conditions in which they lived. But in ignorance in the 1800s and every year since then, we have continued to place characterization and actual worth on people based on that false taxonomy. It is time to jettison that fact. It is time to throw it away, and learn to value each other equally as human beings.”

Dr. Christopher shared that she had recently attended an international convening of public administrators where the opening keynote was delivered by Jeff Corntassel of the Cherokee Nation.  She said,

“In his nation the things that are most valued, that are most important, are the water and the land. And if you have lived a good life, the question that is asked is how the land will recognize you. That is a very different sensibility. That is a very different way of thinking. That the land has a consciousness, and that we all have a responsibility to that land. But somehow, when he expressed that, it resonated with the room, and we were all that much better for having experienced a momentary immersion in his cultural understanding of the land. He reminded us that his people had been stewards of this land for tens of thousands of years. That we are newcomers, and stewards we are not. We do not care for the land. And the land recognizes our failure.”

After sharing a personal story of her own bias, Dr. Christopher described the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Initiative recently launched by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

“It is a truth and reconciliation effort for this country, designed for the unique history and diversity of this country. What are the principles? Most importantly it’s expansive. We don’t use the word “inclusive” anymore because “inclusive” suggests a hierarchy. “It is mine so therefore I am including you in it.” But if I say “expansive,” it means I am expanding my circle of human compassion and caring. So it involves all racial and ethnic identities groups. It involves all sectors of society. It follows a very simple framework, five points.

The first one is what we call “narrative change.” Narrative change means making “now” a longer now. “Now” is a function of the past. So when you talk about today, today should include an understanding of what preceded today. So narrative change is developing comprehensive stories of how we became who we are. Some of it isn’t pretty, but it is a fact. So embracing our history as part of “now” is important.

Secondly, it’s racial healing and trust building and truth telling. We as human beings need to be connected. We are connected. And we need to acknowledge our “interconnected web of destiny,” as Martin Luther King would have said. Now there are many ways to do that. Today is an example. There are many other examples of forcing ourselves to interface and connect with those we perceive as different, and listening to their stories, because you are made more human in that process.

The third – we asked ourselves, “How did the belief in a hierarchy of human value become embedded and sustained for all these centuries?” Because those are the areas that we have to work to dis-embed it. The first is by keeping a separate and segregated and isolated and colonized indigenous people. That is the first big space of the world. The second is through our legal systems. Our legal systems were designed to keep that hierarchy in place. And the law enforcement system is an arm of that. And many people, good people, have family members who are police officers. Many don’t even understand the history of that system. But our policies and our civil law system also reflects that hierarchy. And then, finally, the economy. We didn’t become the richest nation in the world because we were the brightest nation in the world. We became the richest nation in the world because we exploited the labor of people of color for centuries. And that’s just a fact. And so our economic system still thrives on that legacy and the reality of that hierarchy.

We’ve engaged over 150 organizations and over 170 individuals in a detailed design process to imagine a America that has jettisoned the belief in racial hierarchy and the steps we will take to do that. The American Association of Colleges and Universities has agreed to work with us to get a truth, racial healing and transformation center in every college in America.

I am particularly excited about bringing this perspective of “place,” not as an abstract concept but as a literal place to be honored. Like the Accokeek Foundation as a steward. That the land itself has remembered you. And that the land itself is our spiritual ally and partner as we evolve as human beings.

So I think today is a very special day. I am honored to have been invited to share our perspectives with you. This is just the first I hope of many conversations. But do allow our ancestors to be with us today, and give us hope that we can in fact overcome our legacy of division and unite as a human family. And as the founder of our foundation would say, “on behalf of the children.” Thank you very much.

We don’t use the word “inclusive” anymore because “inclusive” suggests a hierarchy. “It is mine so therefore I am including you in it.” But if I say “expansive,” it means I am expanding my circle of human compassion and caring. So it involves all racial and ethnic identities groups. It involves all sectors of society.

“Telling the Story of a Landscape”

by Dr. Lisa Hayes

Accokeek Foundation CEO Lisa Hayes wrote “Telling the Story of a Landscape” specifically for this event. The play, performed reader’s theater style, provides a brief introduction to the Accokeek Foundation’s history and then captures the organization’s struggle to reinvent how visitors are connected to the significant landscape of Piscataway Park.

View and listen to the dog & pony dc performance of the play, as a slideshow of images and audio narration:

Breakout Sessions

Participants were divided into five groups. Facilitators included Braden Paynter (ICSOC) and the four actors from dog & pony dc. During the first breakout, groups discussed the play and initial thoughts, focusing on challenges and opportunities, intersections, connections, etc. Each group synthesized its discussion by writing a haiku or creating some other kind of artistic rendering. A few examples of these follow:

A place of wild fruit

Where land and people are one

Our journey begins.

It starts on the land

All else is temporary

Ending in the land.

It starts on the Land

and Extends to the People

– Expansive – worldview.

It’s complicated

The land, the history, the people

Overcoming noise, Overcoming cacophony,

Overcoming exhaustion, Overcoming silos,

Have we forgotten the land?

Free, Freedom Bounty, Beauty

Expanding Community Growth, Prosperity

Unity, Connectedness,

It’s Complicated

Visual Representation Exercise – 3D Human Sculpture

For us the primary challenge kept focusing on this idea of colorblindness and what does it mean to erase or selectively choose different parts of history, the different stories that we tell. We were interested in visual representation. So we started with our 2d representation and then we decided to take that and put it out into space and create a 3d human sculpture. We started with two people trying to remove the color from each other’s hands, which opens up a deeper understanding of the depth of who they are. Then we created a circle, which is about the interlocking and integrated relationship we all have. And then we have the interpreter being the element that comes to life, going outside the circle to reach the visitor.

For the second breakout session, several questions were posted on flip chart pages for each group. Participants were given markers and time to add comments or responses to each question, or suggest new questions.  This was followed by discussion, during which additional items were added to the pages. The questions, as well as examples of the responses given, are provided below:

Q&A: What stories need to be told here?
Sample Responses

How racism, the belief human hierarchy shaped agriculture, land use and this place.

Water: How (if) was their center of survival?

Cycles, perseverance, ingenuity, problem solving.

What animals and plants call this place home?

Stories of triumph

Story of being outside

The current thriller – how we (the people) will survive

Geological – where soil comes from         

Stories w/ which all visitors can identify

Stories that complicate dominant narratives

Stories of agricultural changes through time

Remove “colonialism” from language, bring agriculture back to beginning.

Visitor leaves asking “How do I remember you?” “How will the land remember me?”      

Children’s stories that weave together multiple narratives

Enslaved labor         

Native world view/lifeways:  Food <–> Land <–> Culture

Of the river –> flipping the center

Deciding on story choice is always challenging because choice is

also about what is not chosen, but here giving voice to those whose hands worked the land is crucial

Geological and human story of the riverscape

The poor, the wealthy, the disenfranchised, the privileged, the vanquished, the victors

How did children fit into the story?

The story of the land & how people through history connected to it

Q&A: How might this place, and the stories that it tells, best connect people to the land?
Sample Responses

Touch soil! Allow visitors to leave their imprint

Allow visitors to take something with them – seeds?

Teach about the life cycle of the soil itself

Eat something!

Soil as a body, as a site of history => “if these walls could talk

–> soil / ground / land –>trees

Inter-racial dialogue about issues of colonization, truth & reconciliation

articles and stories about the people, historical events shared in non-traditional venues, graphic novels, social media, comic books, etc

bringing family groups, churches, social clubs, etc to

share / exchange stories & ideas

Tell that land’s history – talk for the land

A farm for all time – 21st century to the neolithic to the birth of time

Conceptual ‘colorful’ diagrams that show relationships

between people and the land

Place visitors in position to care for the land & to be nurtured by it

To answer this, you may need to ask:

What do we want people to do after they leave?

Food forest – planting plots (family)

Create excitement to try to grow at home- no matter how modest or small & understand how almost everything in their lives was derived from the land

The river and its place in history

History of land use –> crops grown (agricultural history)

Physical – get in there!

How did laws & social norms affect the use and practices on the land

Use history/ stories specific to this place

Q&A: How might this place, and the stories that it tells, best connect people to the land?
Sample Responses

Hire more people of color (and train them well)

Drop the term “non European? It is like “non white”, defining people by what they are NOT –>insulting. Put them as the center.

Allow people of color input in the stories they tell. The stories are of their ancestors, in their voice. They should be the writers and at the center.
 
More first person costumed interpreters as center of stories: explore stories of liberation that connect to the future they fought for.

 Pictures and video introductions at the entry

Rebranding/name change “colonial”

 Interpretation = translation. How can this be in a form that authentically expresses these stories as they exist for themselves, existed for original tellers/listeners?

New Heroes

Interactive technology – apps, touch screen

 
Talk about the impact of this region on the local and global economy. Discuss demographic impact of agriculture in this region (it’s connection w/ Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia, etc)

 
Put work at the center

Oral histories of descendants

Utilize archaeology/ artifacts

 A walking trail across the 200 acres that travels across time, utilizing objects, vistas, and experiential learning

 Invite communities to participate in developing interpretations

Theater

Indigenous people showing & discussing agriculture connection to

land & all of its resources & meaning

African American discussion/ representation of

connection to agriculture, land, all resources

Understand how families and social networks function in their environments. With some historical vetting, just make it a part of the narrative. It doesn’t have to be that hard. Verifying it (the stories) and just do it!

Q&A: In what ways do our perceptions of 18th century and agricultural history inform our contemporary relationship to agriculture and the land?
Sample Responses

18th century oppression/ exploitation repeated in 21st century

informs models of resistance for today

Visitor perception: “that looks like hard work”–>

farming must be hard work, no fun, no reward (not true!)

Colonization of foodways               

“Answer” changes depending on place

Dominant hierarchical narratives of separation – labor/ ownership -nature/ culture –> land is something to be dominated.

Agriculture requires exploitation – then & now – racism

take creation of a ‘Time Analysis’ nature walk at the farm

This presumes people think about the 18th century…do they?

Modern sustainable movement has come back to its roots

What was a way of life is now vogue

Nostalgic images of self-sufficient colonists – misleading & wrong

Adaptation to food insecurity

Technology has changed – agriculture – not so much

Loaded concept of “Colonial” might dissuade contemporary audiences from accessing the land & lessons at the park

Pre-industrial revolution technology, people thrived in spite of

It was very hard work totally controlled by the elements

Euro-centric traditions of history create demand for richer story

Q&A: What interpretive mediums have you found most memorable or impactful at this or other historical sites?
Sample Responses

Use of tools/ props/ artifacts

I connected to the print/ papermaking “exhibit” –> new technologies/ familiar objects

Guided tours with creativity – like at President Lincoln’s Cottage, using multimedia or inviting us to imagine life and work in quiet, empty (now) historic spaces

Connected to the stories of the first person costumed interpreters

All senses engaged

Ask the visitors about their experiences with agriculture, farming, gathering & lead with that

self-guided tours with supportive staff        

Interactive activities

The experience of “coming across” a landscape, where instantaneous recognition of larger than self occurs – constructing this (ex. Japanese garden)

Limited and self-selected theatrical performance      

genuine encounter w/o intended outcome so person can have their own direct experience of place

The land speaks-  The land as you narrator

Side-by-side interpretations/ P.O.V. narratives

Always things that have allowed for direct interaction

touching, creating, tasting, sensing, experiences!

Personal narratives

3 continent garden – Experiencing the technologies, culture, ideas

in a garden space

Historical voices…. But how do I know which ones I’m not hearing?

Immersive historical theater with audience participation

Experimental archaeology       

Receiving historical identity – Holocaust Museum

History of X in “100 objects” book/ walking tour, interactive site

1st person with contextualization

Maps, timelines to visualize geographical (spatial) & temporal context

Audio tours with physical objects

Self guided tours

Theater enactments of enslaved women’s confrontation of British offer of freedom in 1812 “reenactment”

Q&A: Who do we need to talk to next and how do we share what we are planning? How can you help?
Sample Responses

neighbors & local community           

Teachers who’ve done the program

Melissa Jones (Good Soil) – food as a vehicle for storytelling

staff & leadership –> each other

Facilitation training

Universities , Foundations, Visitors & non-visitors

DC Public Schools

Who’s here now – Barbadians, trinidadians, Jamaicans

National Park       

PG County Government/ DOE

International Regeneratioix

Cultural Geographers

Physical geographers   

New Themes – Agriculture as a lens for listening to the land – expand temporal window beyond 1770’s – shift narrative focus to the land

Partners/ Members/ Donors

Ecologists

Current day subsistence farmers & agricultural workers

Those who have more of a relationship with the land

Chesapeake Bay Foundation   

Tourism organizations

Future Farmers of America (FFA) Students

PG County  K-12 educators

Terry Bouton (UMBC Professory)

School gardens -native garden connections

The community/ audience served      

Others, including in the international community,

who have succeeded in similar work

environmental literacy – no child left inside

Don’t only share your plans, open up planning process

“AfroAmerican Food Ways” – Author

Descendants

NAACP

UCAAC – Unified Commission of African American Contributions

Legislators DNC,  states,local, national, DC

Community involvement –> team building/ diversity training

Youth groups eg. scouts

Veterans

Local chefs & breweries

NMAH – Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Dr. Erik Spangler’s Artist Statement

These six audio pieces represent my experience of the Accokeek Foundation’s March 2017 “Dialogue on Race, Agriculture, and Living History.” As part of the documentation of the Dialogue, breakout discussion sessions were recorded by myself and two of my students in the Sound Art program at Maryland Institute College of Art (Jordan Franklin and Jess Lewis). I edited and organized the audio of the dialogue according to themes that I heard across different conversations.

While editing the speaking voices, I aimed to represent the widest variety of individual voices that could be discerned from within the many conversations happening in the room. At the same time, I wanted to explore a range of focus between a stream of overlapping voices in the space on the one hand, and clear discernment of a single person’s words on the other, experiencing the layering of conversations in a musical sense and suggesting many possible points of focus. Background musical elements were drawn from a variety of sources, including original music that I composed for the dialogue as well as pre-existing compositions of mine that related well to the themes expressed by the speaking voices.

The music that I composed for the dialogue is based upon an old minstrel song, “Briggs’ Corn Shucking Jig”, as performed by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The manner in which the Carolina Chocolate Drops reclaim and reinterpret the black musical heritage on which minstrel banjo music is based, as well as its link to agricultural history and the legacy of slavery, seemed to me an obvious musical analogy to the varied ways in which the Accokeek Foundation is aiming to reframe the difficult history of colonial agriculture in Southern Maryland. In the case of this particular source material, I sliced several phrases of Rhiannon Ghiddens’ gourd banjo playing into a sampler, wherein the individual notes of the melody are rearranged to create new patterns. Additional sounds are drawn from classroom workshops that I held with students in grades 1-8 at the GreenMount School in Baltimore, including varied sounds of corn kernels and cabbage as sources of percussive sounds, along with deconstructed fragments of the original melody of the Corn Shucking Jig, performed by the children’s voices, glockenspiel and keyboards as a piece of ambient music.

Erik Spangler, April 2017

  1. Dialogue Soundscapes Episode 1: What stories should we tell? 
  2. Dialogue Soundscapes Episode 2: How can we best serve present day communities? 
  3. Dialogue Soundscapes Episode 3: How can we place visitors in dialogue with the land?
  4. Dialogue Soundscapes Episode 4: How do we represent sustainable approaches to food and agriculture?
  5. Dialogue Soundscapes Episode 5: What are the most effective approaches to historical interpretation?
  6. Dialogue Soundscapes Episode 6: How should we define the Accokeek Foundation’s guiding principles?

For the second breakout session, several questions were posted on flip chart pages for each group. Participants were given markers and time to add comments or responses to each question, or suggest new questions.  This was followed by discussion, during which additional items were added to the pages. The questions, as well as examples of the responses given, are provided via the audio posts below:

Dialogue Reflections

By Lisa Hayes

“If you have lived a good life, the question that is asked is how the land will recognize you.” This was the touchstone that everyone kept returning to during the Dialogue on Race, Agriculture, and Living History. It was a quote from a Native American speaker shared by Dr. Christopher in her keynote. She went on to comment, “That is a very different way of thinking. That the land has a consciousness, and that we all have a responsibility to that land.”  The concept of the land having a consciousness led to some rich discussion during the day and the intriguing idea of flipping the narrative to make the natural world the main “character.” If the land or the soil could talk, “What stories of the people, agriculture, and animals would it tell?”

One of the day’s most profound lessons for me was the need to always remember the power of language and the impact that the choice of words can have. For example, it is better to say “expansive” than “inclusive,” since “inclusive” suggests a hierarchy. “It is mine so therefore I am including you in it.” And though not intended, using the term “non-European” in one of the discussion questions proved offensive to many, since it framed the question from the Caucasian perspective and focused on what someone isn’t.

Many excellent ideas were shared during the Dialogue for how the Accokeek Foundation might make its interpretation more “expansive.” I appreciated Dr. Christopher’s wise observation, “I would be cautious not to allow our own drive to intellectualize to overshadow that which is, and to get in the way of the powerful spiritual experience of being with nature… the gift of the place is the place itself.”

There is no simple answer to the question of how to ensure that all visitors find a path for authentic engagement with the special landscape of Piscataway Park. But I embrace the challenge of the quest and welcome fellow travelers. How will we remember the land? How will the land remember us?

This project was made possible by a grant from Maryland Humanities, through support from the National Endowment of the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations, expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of National Endowment of the Humanities or Maryland Humanities

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