Witness Stones Old Lyme Celebrates Second Installation

Updated: Sep 29


On Friday, June 4, 2022, the community gathered on the lawn of the Old Lyme Library to celebrate the second installation of Witness Stones on Lyme Street, extending this year to McCurdy Road. The program included music, poetry, and words from community partners and speakers,







Guest speakers Dain and Constance Perry. In an earlier Witness Stones event on Thursday evening at the library, the guest speakers presented the award-winning film "Traces of the Trade," in which they participated. The film documents the DeWolf family's extensive engagement in the slave trade in Bristol, Rhode Island. The DeWolfs' slave-owning began here in Old Lyme, and a Witness Stone placed at the upper Lyme Street green commemorates Mingo, the enslaved sawmill worker of Edward DeWolf.


World-renowned soprano Lisa Williamson and acclaimed saxophonist and U.S. Coast Guard Band conductor Richard Wyman provided music, along with twelve members of the Old Lyme Middle School chorus, led by Laura Ventres.





Frederick-Douglass Knowles, Hartford poet Laureate, presented his poem Shoots of Plants Blooming in Spring, written in response to an enslaved person remembered by the Witness Stones Project in New Haven, CT. You may read his poem below.


Seventh-grade students from the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School read biographical poems they wrote to tell the life stories of Harry Freeman and Margaret Crosley Lewia. Using primary documents, the students researched these two enslaved town residents, making the story of local slavery tangible, personal, and relevant to their own lives. You may read a poem by one of the students below.

 

Shoots of Plants Blooming in Spring

For Pink Primus, circa 1791

Frederick-Douglass Knowles II


1.

Her slave master’s

favorite color was

most certainly green;


the shade of profit

from selling people

like stolen property.


A secondary color

misused to attune

the voice in her skin


to a second class

rainbow bent on

mashing molasses.


2.

I wonder what her

favorite color was?

Was it the color of


a freedom-blue sky?

Or the shimmer of

a lake under the sun?


Was it the color

of a flaring soul?

The embers of


ancestry fanning

the flame of her

descendant's dreams?


Was it the color of a

desert African Bush?

A lioness-beige


camouflaged by

the sandy hue

of the Kalahari?


3.

Was it the color of

her stark eyes, dark

as a North Star night?


Or the color of a

candle illuminating

a train traveling

underground?


Was it a deep-rebel

Maroon, rich like a

warrior's melanin


insurrecting

the indigenous

resistance

to colonialism?


4.

Was it the color

of matrimony?


Two crayons

coloring in and out

the lines of love?


The color of

emancipation?

The color of their


land bought

by Draggon Bank?


A pasture as green

as an evening in the

Eden of Ethiopia?


5.

Was it the color of:

Pride?

Strength?

Courage?

Charisma?

Wisdom?

Conviction?

Involution?

Companionship?

Direction?

Guidance?

Purpose?


6.

Or was it the color

of her name? The

color of a Mandinka


woman? The color

of ether? Existence?

Of a Zulu Queen


armored in bronze?

A matriarch, protector,

provider, nurturer?


The color of

a cornerstone

who bore witness


to the dawn of

a mountain?

The color of the


bottom of her

Foote rooted

in the soil of

American history?


7.

No, I believe

her favorite color

was the color


of her daughter,

Chloe --Greek

meaning yellow

and green;


young, green

shoots of plants

blooming in spring.

 

Impossible to Overcome

By Owen Shapiro


I was not born a person.

I was born a slave

A far more subordinate version

merchandise, trapped in a body defined by its dark skin.

In a world so white,

Impossible to overcome


I did not choose this fate

A beginning did,

A sudden light

Paper and ink

So the whole world will know my name

For "My negro boy" is a name with no right

Why, it is Impossible to overcome

For the world is so cruel, the world is so white


So as the sun beats down on my skin

I am not a human, not one that lives

But a slave working his days away, like the rest of his kin

For a world of white, one that will never be his

A world of white,

I suppose that's the way it is


A chance at freedom

As I slip the shiny, metal ring on my finger,

As I feel the water rub against my dark forehead, it lingers

I feel it,

Freewill

Just a small bit, of freedom

Even as I am trapped in a world of white

Impossible to overcome


A strange inclination

Though I am not human

Liberation

A final conclusion

As the dirt encroaches upon my dark skin

My body succumbs.

The world turns black

And I overcome



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