Remembrance as Resistance: Preserving Black Narratives honors recently discovered unmarked graves in the African American Grounds of Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery. The work celebrates the Ring Shout, a traditional African-American worship and gathering practice whose origins in West African ritual and ceremony predate slavery. From its roots in West Africa, the Ring Shout was reborn during enslavement in the West in resistance to laws which prohibited those enslaved from gathering, except for worship, and forbid any form of cultural expression not in service to the enslavers, including drumming. These laws were imposed in an effort to systematically dismantle communication, and ultimately community. In response, those enslaved created Praise Houses—small usually wooden structures used for worship throughout the Southeast. As an act of resistance, congregants would gather in circle to stomp or shout (full body rhythmic movement) upon the wooden floors, ultimately creating a communal drum—secretly preserving their cultural rituals and collective prayers and traditions. These small hidden worship spaces were the first Black churches in the Western world.
Through this project Minniefield explores evidence of the Ring Shout’s survival in contemporary dance, music, and spoken word as testament to the resilience of a people.
The project was originally scheduled for Juneteenth 2020 to coincide with the Historic Oakland Foundation completing restoration of the African American Grounds. Though the physical installation was postponed, Flux Projects presented a series of virtual programs instead.
About the Artist
Charmaine Minniefield seeks to preserve Black narratives by creating public art in communities affected by gentrification and erasure. She has completed numerous community murals, and she was recently commissioned by the City of Atlanta to create murals honoring the unsung heroines of the Civil Rights Movement. Recent work also includes projection mapping and site-specific installations. With a degree in Fine Art from Agnes Scott College, Minniefield has served the Atlanta area as an arts administrator for nearly 20 years, holding positions with the National Black Arts Festival, the High Museum of Art, and the Fulton County Department of Art and Culture, and producing projects around art and activism with such organizations as Alternate ROOTS, Points of Light, and Flux Projects. She recently served as faculty for the Department of Art and Visual Cultural at Spelman College and currently serves as faculty for Freedom University, an underground university for undocumented students.