‘Vigil for Roxie’ performance in Jamaica

The inaugural performance of Vigil for Roxie was staged this year at Liberty Hall, Marcus Garvey’s UNIA headquarters.

Letters of the Dead performance package_V3

Posting by graduate assistant Anique Jordan

Throughout the last year and a half I have worked alongside Jamaican scholar and theatre worker, Honor Ford-Smith on her research project; Memory, Urban Violence and Performance in Jamaican Communities, more commonly known as Letters from the Dead. Her work looks at how communities affected by violence, remember, mourn and perform these memories. Specifically, its looks at performances of political protest, community vigils, memorial murals, music and drama, and questions how communities and individuals both complicate and articulate their responses to violence. The project has several notable elements to it which lift the academic work from the written page to the human body. This is done through community-led public interventions, art installations with images of the dead and participatory theatre, specifically the one woman play; Vigil for Roxie.

Vigil for Roxie intentionally brings all these elements together and forces a broader audience to confront the themes and questions at the foundation of the project. The one woman play, is performed by Jamaican actor, Carol Lawes.  It follows the life of  Miss Iris, a woman who’s son and local Don, Roxie, was violently murdered at the hands of the police. In Roxie’s memory, Miss Iris stages an annual vigil. Throughout the play the actress performs the roles of ten characters which together illustrate how different members of the community saw Roxie as both a local leader  and bod mon. Collectively the characters also offer the audience insight into the political context surrounding his death and memory.

This was the first public staging of Vigil in Jamaica and it was important, more than ever, to keep the play strongly rooted in the community. For me this is what made this production like nothing I had ever worked on before. While the play itself was already a collaboratively created script, the installation surrounding it was completely designed by community members, specifically, the Hannah Town Cultural Group. Here is where the idea formulated to make the entire experience a massive community vigil.

At 5:00pm on the dot, the audience started to funnel through the red iron gates of Liberty Hall, an old Garvey headquarter, and were enveloped into a sound scape of djembe rhythms and gospel songs, surrounded by memorial images of those past, hanging from close pins –a literal reminder of their lives on the line. The energy in the courtyard before the play even began was unmistakable, woman mainly, were celebrating, mourning, speaking softly and joining in song.   I knew this was staged, they knew they were audience members but somehow the rift between real life and theatre was blurred and people immersed themselves fully in the experience as performers of memory, then acting on their own.  This is what furthered the political content for me, the themes were no longer embedded in the lines of a script, they were being played out right before me, as a reminder of is urgency.

Im proud to be a part of creating a space that used art in such a profoundly political and personal way and to have learned different ways of letting go control to effectively share ownership. This experience was powerful for me and I left, like i often do, feeling richer and expectantly  filled with more questions than I came with. I now wonder if places of grieving are always reparative? and if not, what right did we have as artists to jog memories where maybe some have wanted to forget?  and further, What questions must we ask when trying to use art in sacred spaces and vice versa?

I know that Ive acted in creating this installation, I participated as a witness to it and now in writing, I am crafting my testimony of this experience and as much as I was present in the space, I was also want to recognize my role as an outsider, both culturally and geographically.  I was documenting a process as a form of art but because of the blurred lines, I was also documenting deeply personal moments. These are the lessons I take forward in my own practice of community work and art.

Anique Jordan

Anique Jordan is a graduate assistant for the Memory, Urban Violence and Performance Project

Charles Campbell artist talk on exhibit “Anything with Nothing”

Community and Environmental Arts  at the Faculty of Environmental Studies presents

a talk by visiting artist

Charles Campbell

“Anything with nothing: Urban space, racial boundaries and contemporary Caribbean art.”

actor-boy-portraitCharles Flyer

Thursday Sept 18, 2014, 12:45 pm
HNES, Room 140

 Charles Campbell is a Jamaican and Canadian multidisciplinary artist and curator who has exhibited throughout North America, the Caribbean and Europe, in the Havana Biennial, the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Museum of the Americas and others.   He has also been chief curator of the National Gallery of Jamaica. His work takes up decolonization, racialization and the carnivalesque and moves between performance art, sculpture and painting. In this talk he examines two projects with urban communities and artists in Kingston Jamaica and discusses the ways in which this work dissolved social, geographic and political boundaries, reimagining possible engagements in Caribbean urban space.


“Anything with Nothing” an art exhibit of popular murals


“Anything with nothing” is the upcoming exhibit on the popular mural art of urban Jamaica at the National Gallery of Jamaica. Curated by Charles Campbell and Monique Barnett-Davidson, it really will be a first and a very special exhibit.  I was privileged to work a bit with the curators on the project and can say it was very exciting.

It’ll be a chance for folks from communities uptown downtown and out of to visit the gallery, weigh in on the work and perhaps discuss all the issue and ideas that produce them.


The Contemporary Urgencies of Audre Lorde’s Legacy


Medicines for Survival: Indigenous Knowledge and the Sacred with M. Jacqui Alexander
DATE: Thursday March 7th
PLACE: HNES 140, FES, York University
TIME: 6 p.m.

Litanies for our Survival: Visual and Performative Conversations with Audre Lorde and inaugural exhibition in new Community Arts Practice Space
DATE: Thursday March 7th
PLACE: HNES 283 and throughout the building, FES, York University
TIME: 7:30 p.m.

Film screening, Audre Lorde: The Berlin Years 1984-1992 (directed by Dagmar Schultz)
Followed by panel discussion with Dagmar Schultz, Marion Kraft, Gloria Wekker, M. Jacqui Alexander, Carol Allain, Farrah Khan, Bonita Lawrence
DATE: Friday March 15th
PLACE: William Doo Auditorium, University of Toronto, 45 Willcocks Street
TIME: 6:30 p.m.

What’s (Homo)Sexuality got to do with it? Lecture by Gloria Wekker, with responses from Anna Agathangelou and Jin Haritaworn, chaired by Ena Dua
DATE: Tuesday March 19th,
PLACE: HNES 140, FES, York University
TIME: 1 p.m.

backforward collective presents “After the 9-5 in Audre’s Livingroom”
(An intimate, collaborative poetry marathon recite &r espond multidisciplinary hangout!)
DATE: Thursday March 21st
PLACE: Whippersnapper Gallery, 594b Dundas St. West
TIME: 6 – 11 pm

FOLLOW US ON TWITTER: #audrelordeslegacy2013

YORK UNIVERSITY SPONSORS: Community Arts Practice, FES; Office of the Dean; ACE and the Seminar Series in Equity and Diversity at FES; Faculty of Health; Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO SPONSORS: Women and Gender Studies; Principal’s Initiatives Fund at New College; Equity Studies; Caribbean Studies; Humanities, Social Sciences and Social Justice Education, OISE; Centre for the Study of the United States; Sexual Diversity Studies; Anti-Racism and Diversity; Status of Women; Cinema Studies; Canadian Studies

A Vigil for Roxie Performance at Rutgers University

We have been invited to present our work from Memory Urban Violence and Perfomance!

The MUVP team will be at Rutgers University, New Jersey to present a series of workshops and lectures, culmulating in the Vigil for Roxie performance on the final day. Details below!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 3:30pm
The Politics of Performing Memories of Urban Violence Transnationally
Lecture by: Honor Ford-Smith

Thursday, Novemeber 8, 2012 3:30pm
The Anancy Technique: A Doorway to Postcolonial Performance
Lecture by: Eugene Williams

Thursday, Novemeber 8, 2012 7:00pm
Memory Violence and Perfomance
Workshop by: Honor Ford-Smith & Camille Turner

Performance: Vigil for Roxie
Friday, November 9, 2012 8pm &
Saturday, November 10 2:00pm
George Street Playhouse