For our last Adult Forum series in May, we will watch and discuss a powerful film called “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North.”
The story is about a New England woman who discovers that her ancestors were the largest slave trading family in U.S. history. This history however, was buried to her and her relatives – lost in other myths that had been passed down about how they gained their wealth.
When she finds out, she decides to face her shame and confusion head on: she contacts distant relatives, recruiting those who are willing to go on a month-long journey to Rhode Island, the American South, and Ghana to learn about the truth of her family’s past. Traces of the Trade documents this journey – the physical one, and the emotional one.
We were inspired to view this film after our March series on African American history in the UCC. During one of the sessions, a discussion about family history arose. We talked about how painful and complicated it is try to understand and heal from what our ancestors’ relationship to slavery was – whether we are coming from families of enslaved Africans themselves, from white families that traded, owned slaves, or benefited from the trade in other ways, or from other backgrounds that touched the system. What does it mean for us to think about each of our families’ past in the context of a national history that was enmeshed in such an evil system? What light does it shine about our own relationship to systems of institutional racism and oppression today?
This will be a discussion in which we need to care for ourselves and each other. For that reason, I wanted to share with you four “guidelines to courageous conversation” before we begin. We will talk about what we think these mean more on Sunday – but I will leave them with you to sit with on your own for now:
1. Stay Engaged
2. Experience Discomfort
3. Speak Your Own Truth
4. Expect and Accept Non-closure
I hope that if we commit to these, watching Traces of the Trade will be an opportunity for all of us to do our own struggling, reconciliation and healing in ways that bring us together even closer as a community.
If you are interested in participating in the series, I encourage you try to make it from beginning to end so that you can see the entire film. However, if you can’t, you are still welcome to join for any individual session – just expect to come in with an open mind and to be brought up to speed by others.
Looking forward to seeing you Sunday,