I went with my cousin Katrina Browne to Providence this evening, for a local screening of her film, Traces of the Trade. This is her documentary about the journey which ten of us undertook to re-trace the footsteps of our ancestors in the slave trade, and to explore the meaning of that legacy today.

The screening was hosted by the Providence Black Repertory Company, which provided an excellent venue and generated a large turn-out.

The audience reactions were almost uniformly positive, and often strongly supportive of our efforts. One viewer went so far as to say that this was the most moving film he’d seen in thirty years, and several in the audience urged us, and the audience, to follow up with social action.

This was a heavily black, and almost entirely minority, audience, which gave a particularly valuable twist to the audience reactions and feedback. For instance, as has been my experience with black viewers elsewhere, the crowd was much more open about laughing at various points where white viewers seem less comfortable. And when Katrina and I went up afterwards for questions and discussion, the comments tended to focus on the viewers’ responses to the film as black members of society. And the reactions did include an impassioned plea against the film, on the grounds that that it was an illegitimate attempt by whites to discuss race on their own. There was even a suggestion that a boycott of the screening had been called for this reason.

Traces of the Trade will be available nationally in 2008, but this is the first of many local screenings which will be held in Rhode Island from this point on. And these screenings are starting to be mentioned in the community, as you can see from this entry by Ian Donnis at The Phoenix, and this post at the Providence Daily Dose. Hopefully this will lead to more discussion, and interest in screenings of the film.

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