One of the missions of the Shade Research Collective is to document and highlight the workers, past and present, of the Connecticut River Valley’s tobacco fields. On August 1st, Professor Jason Chang and, AAASI Activist-in-Residence, Mike Keo visited the Jamaican Emancipation Day celebration at the Jarmoc tobacco plantation in Enfield, Connecticut to photograph the event. More than 300 Jamaican tobacco workers came to the celebration. Professor Fiona Vernal also attended as part of her on going work with the West Indian diaspora in central Connecticut. The event was an opportunity to recognize the hard work and sacrifice of these workers under the stressful conditions of the pandemic.
Update from Shade Research Collective Members, Alycia Bright Holland and Kristen Morgan
LINK to ECSU Site
MAY 1, 2021
Cultivating Dignity—a newly devised work by Alycia Bright Holland and Kristen Morgan—was originally envisioned as a mainstage theatrical production, and will now premiere as a film adaptation. This change in format is made possible in part due to the involvement of Brian Day (Film faculty in the Performing Arts Department) as Director of Photography and Film Producer. This production will explore the lives of tobacco agricultural workers in Connecticut, during the time when young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. worked at Cullman Brothers farm, to help pay for his tuition at Morehouse College. Using methods of theatre-devising drawn from Frantic Assembly, Tectonic Theatre Project and Theatre of the Oppressed, Eastern students and faculty, along with playwright Darcy Bruce, worked together to develop Cultivating Dignity. As we did with Thread City in 2017, documentary research (conducting oral histories, researching archival documents—including photographs, film/video, and ephemera) was undertaken to create an original script. Consequently, the story dives deeply into issues of labor, migration, race, and cultural identity. A public film screening of Cultivating Dignity will be premiered May 1, 2021, and will be available subsequently for online viewing. There are also plans to create a small touring project to visit K-12 schools across Connecticut, in order to engage young audiences.
For more details visit our Symposium page.
Here is a creative/artistic competition around labor and shade tobacco for middle to high school and college level with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place prizes. Please encourage your students to apply to this virtual event. It includes a research/resource link. Registration is required. Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thanks to generous funding from the New England Humanities Consortium we have gathered scholars and culture workers from the region to think across disciplines to explore the global dimensions of the Connecticut River Valley’s tobacco plantations and urban connections. By bridging the rural and urban development of this region we aim to recover lost histories of workers and migrants, create new narratives of the labor and community, and envision a sustainable and equitable vision of the future for this place.