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Commemorating the Forgotten

Mon, 01/23/2023 - 14:19
Michael A. Butler's painting "Growth of the Great Meadow" highlights the development of the Sag Harbor area through time.
Michael A. Butler

In celebration of Black History Month, the Sag Harbor Cinema and the Plain Sight Project are offering a monthlong program of events as part of their “Forgetting to Remember” project, starting on Wednesday at the cinema.

The collaboration was launched in 2022 by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The February events will include an exhibition of work by Michael A. Butler, a Sag Harbor artist, the premiere of a documentary film about the life of David Hempstead, Senior, and a discussion of the work of the Plain Sight Project.

That project, co-directed by Donnamarie Barnes and David E. Rattray, was founded in 2017 to identify enslaved, indentured, and free people of color who lived on the East End from the 1600s to the mid-19th century. "Forgetting to Remember" expands this work into the Sag Harbor community.

A monthlong exhibition in the cinema’s Rosenberg Workspace will include historical documents unearthed by the Plain Sight Project and other sources. It will also feature a commissioned artwork by Mr. Butler that details the legacy of David Hempstead, Senior, a formerly enslaved man of color whose descendants were founding members of Sag Harbor's Eastville community. The exhibition is free during cinema hours.

“Forgotten Founders: David Hempstead, Senior,” a documentary by Sam Hamilton and Julian Alvarez, chronicles Hempstead’s story as well as the work of the Plain Sight Project. It will premiere at the cinema on Feb. 25. "It highlights the vital work of the Plain Sight Project and the ways in which the Sag Harbor Cinema can support and amplify social justice initiatives in our local community,” said Bill Collage, a board member of the cinema and chairman of its education committee. “Sam and Julian have created a film which honors, celebrates, and preserves the incredible story of David Hempstead, Senior.”

The program will also feature interactive digital-mapping technology that allows visitors to trace the locations of enslaved, indentured, and free people of color in Sag Harbor and beyond. The cinema and the Plain Sight Project partnered with the Vanderbilt Institute for Spatial Research to develop that initiative.

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