Saturday, February 12, 2011

Connecting the Sahara & the Adirondacks, Exposing Slavery in Our Chocolate

Valentine's Day 2011. On Monday, 14 February, John Brown Lives!' Dreaming of Timbuctoo Exhibition will be on display at the Concourse Entrance of the Legislative Office Building in Albany. The exhibition will be unveiled at 11:00 a.m. with guest speakers, including Assemblyman Steven Englebright, Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, and Senators Kevin Parker and Betty Little.

In addition, Valentine's Day Fair Trade chocolates will be handed out to draw attention to the delicious alternatives to chocolate made from forced child labor, particularly on plantations in western Africa.

While the Dreaming of Timbuctoo exhibition brings to light a long-forgotten chapter of New York State freedom history, speakers will also draw connections across continents from the Sahara to the Adirondacks, discuss the importance public funding for state historic sites, and provide an update on the current campaign to end child/slave labor and trafficking in the chocolate industry.

Fifteen years before the Civil War, leading black and white abolitionists in New York State rolled out an ambitious voting rights strategy to break the juggernaut in Albany that kept Black New Yorkers disenfranchised. Part agrarian dream, it also resulted in radical reformer Gerrit Smith deeding 120,000 acres of Adirondack land to 3,000 free black men from all across the state. While few families moved to their plots, Smith's "scheme of justice and benevolence" is what attracted John Brown to move there with his family. The homestead is where Brown chose to be buried after his raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry in 1859 to strike a blow against slavery. Tens of thousands of visitors come to the John Brown State Historic Site outside of Lake Placid every year to visit the gravesite of Brown and several of his fellow Raiders.

Dreaming of Timbuctoo is the first serious and thorough treatment of the backstory behind John Brown's attraction to the Adirondacks. The exhibition premiered at the Adirondack Museum in 2001 and then toured campuses, libraries, historical societies, and museums around the state, including the State Museum in Albany, and was seen by well over 100,000 people. With Assemblyman Englebright, Assemblywoman Sayward, and Senators Parker and Little as sponsors, Dreaming of Timbuctoo will be on display at the Concourse Entrance to the Legislative Office Building for the public to view through Thursday 17 February.

Invited speakers at the press event in The Well on Valentine's Day, Monday 14
February, at 11:00 a.m. include:
- Assemblyman Steven Englebright and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward;
- Senators Kevin Parker and Betty Little;
- Martha Swan, Director, John Brown Lives!
- Brian O'Shaughnessy, Executive Director, New York Labor-Religion Coalition, who will make the link to current work to end child/slave labor and trafficking in cocoa industry;
- Jane McNamara, Director of Grants & Special Programs, New York Council for the Humanities
- Dr. Hadley-Kruczek-Aaron, SUNY Potsdam professor and archeologist who is conducting a dig on one of the Timbuctoo plots in Essex County;
- Adham Stewart, a college freshman from Albany who was part of Dr. Kruczek-Aaron’s archeological team on a dig in 2009;
- Brother Yusef Wasi, an Albany educator and mentor of Adham and other teens involved in the dig;
- Ibrahim ag Mohamed, Director of Scarab School, Timbuktu, Mali (whose greetings from Mali will be read on his behalf)
- Amy Godine, exhibition curator, who will lead a walk-thru of the exhibition.

Fair Trade chocolate will be handed out and people will have the opportunity to send a Valentine's Day post card asking the Hersheys Company to certify that the cocoa used is their chocolate products is free of child and forced labor.

Dreaming of Timbuctoo is a joint project of the freedom education project John Brown Lives! and the Essex County Historical Society. Major funding for the exhibition and a slate of educational and cultural program was provided by the New York State Council for the Arts, the New York Council for the Humanities, private foundations, and numerous individual donors.

For more information: Martha Swan, Director, John Brown Lives!, 518-962-4758
or 518-582-2586.

No comments: