Award Information

American Slavery’s Legacy across Space and Time: Small Grants Program 2021
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Georgetown University
Here I Am

Written and performed by Mélisande Short- Colomb, a direct descendant of the Mahoney and Queen family members enslaved and sold by the Jesuits to keep Georgetown operating, "Here I Am (HIA)", an original multimedia theatrical production created by The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, offers both a powerful chronicle of the continuing legacy of slavery in American society and a deeply personal window into this complex and multifaceted history. The stirring story of Colomb learning of her link to Georgetown and then deciding to attend - - as a 63- year old freshman - - the institution that enslaved her ancestors, provides an empathic pathway into understanding the legacy of slavery today. After "HIA" received an outpouring of positive response in its initial run, The Lab and Colomb are committed to leveraging the production’s impact in multiple ways. Meli Colomb’s multi- media recounting of her personal story is emerging as a centerpiece of a university- wide curriculum around Georgetown’s history of slavery and its intersection with the broader American legacy of slavery. "Here I Am" already has had a profound impact on the academic community, as it was featured as a centerpiece of the Universities Studying Slavery conference in April 2021, hosted by Georgetown. The overwhelmingly positive response from the attendees, representing universities grappling with their own legacies of slavery, has encouraged us to apply for this grant to further engage these and other university communities through touring "Here I Am" with Meli Colomb as a speaker, and by developing curricular materials that can be used in university courses across the country and globally. Funds from this SSRC grant will support the continued presentations of the multi- media Here I Am production, accompanied by Meli Colomb as a speaker; and creating and disseminating an enduring multi- faceted curricular program built around Here I Am that will engage students, scholars, descendants and the wider public in grappling with the complex legacy of slavery at Georgetown and beyond.. More specifically, SSRC funding will support hiring a curriculum design specialist, further archival research, and developing a curricular- focused website. The public perception of the very identity and character of Georgetown going forward is inextricably tied to how its history of slavery is addressed. While aspects of this history are echoed in many other elite institutions and universities, the story and record of what transpired at GU is very particular. Georgetown has a unique opportunity to play a leadership role in how cultures of privilege confront and make amends for a fraught and painful past. Creation of curriculum related to HIA will show a commitment to making these stories an enduring educational resource for students at Georgetown and elsewhere. Among the beneficiaries of this project are the thousands of descendants of the GU272; other leaders, scholars, administrators within and far beyond the GU community who are grappling with how to meaningfully respond to the legacy of slavery; students and younger audiences, as well as public audiences invested in issues of race, equity, inclusion and social justice.