By Arianne C. Edmonds
In a culture so obsessed with the preservation of “now” and the constant documentation of our daily lives via Facebook and Twiter, it was refreshing to participate in an event like the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion Road Show. Under the workmanship of critically acclaimed filmmaker, Thomas Allen Harris, The DDFR Road Show may seem a bit counter intuitive to today’s cultural priorities. But, in actuality DDFR is quietly and with magnanimous force stirring the embers of a forgotten African Diasporaic past.
Through photography and oral histories, the DDFR Road Show highlights some of the most cherished, insightful and uplifting personal tales of the Black Diaspora. Guest are invited to share family histories that span the American coasts, the Caribbean and various counties in Africa, each account powerful and unique in its own right. If creating a forum to share the beautiful collective past of our ancestors wasn’t enough, Harris and his talented team have also implemented an educational component to the DDFR Road Show. Throughout each DDFR event Harris offers tips on how audience members can preserve their own family photos and historical documents.
I had the opportunity to attend last year’s DDFR Road Show at the Brooklyn Central Library. After hearing so many amazing histories, I was determined to get involved. I’ve been tracing my own family history for a few years and I figured working with Harris and his team would be a wonderful opportunity to not only showcase my findings but to share my story with like-minded genealogy buffs like myself. I was thrilled when I got a call from producer Ann Bennett to participate in the 2011 DDFR Road Show at Harlem Stage.
The week long event was filled with several days of interviews followed by a spectacular Grand Finale Showcase. I didn’t expect to have such a cathartic response to sharing the family stories behind each photo. I felt transformed as I began piecing together my fragmented past. It was as if I was a spokesperson for the many great people that make up my lineage.
After the show, I was greeted with an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement from audience members, urging me to keep writing and researching, ensuring me that this path will lead to hundreds of open doors.
If I could sum up my experience in one word it would be – healing. I do believe we, as a people, have made major strides in accomplishing the outward battle of being noticed and respected in this country. Yet, the internal cultural wounds from the Black American experience, are still very much in effect. The DDFR Road Show and related projects are creating opportunities to remedy those wounds. The work of Harris and his team are helping to unearth our dark and often overlooked history, giving room for release and offering healing and a collective acceptance of our colorful past.
Arianne C. Edmonds
DDFR Harlem Road Show Participant February 2011