Join Whitsle Stop Tour’s AYA SHABU for a tour of the Carolina Theatre’s Civil Rights Museum.
*Meet in the lobby at 4:30 pm.
Whistle Stop Tours — Haiti to Hayti and John Merrick Lives — strive to be a contributing voice in shaping the public memory of North Carolina’s slave past and African American achievement. For the past seven years, Durham has been experiencing rapid growth in both business and real estate development. However, many neighborhoods — once considered blighted and undesirable — are being infiltrated by developers, followed by primarily middle- and upper-class white families. Black and Latino families are being forced out of their centrally located downtown neighborhoods due to the high costs of “revitalization”. New transplants to the area often do not know the neighborhoods’ history; with homes being renovated or simply torn down, the public history of African Americans — including their past as enslaved people — is incomplete. In a time of mass displacement, food deserts, and state-sanctioned killings of Black people, it is important that the band of Black men and women coming out of slavery — the forefathers and foremothers of Durham’s Hayti and Black Wall Street — be remembered and preserved.
My art is storytelling via dance and theater, in the form of a historic walking tour. I’ve come to realize that my art serves various audiences differently. As a walking performance, the neighborhood and historic sites of Hayti become the stage. For general audiences, my art is often received as “edutainment.” For community-oriented audiences — who sometimes join the performance on an impromptu basis — my art serves as much-needed visibility and sometimes validation of their otherwise forgotten neighborhood. As the creator of these stories, I offer my art as public ritual — an offering to the ancestors on the sacred streets once revered as the “Capital of the Black Middle Class.” The words that I write and recite, and the gestures my body make are my libation, a pouring out of names, the invocation to the men and women who gave life to Hayti.