An Incomplete History of Protest:
Shellyne Rodriguez on Ja'Tovia Gary
Feb 26, 2018

Artist and activist Shellyne Rodriguez responds to Ja’Tovia Gary’s film An Ecstatic Experience and discusses how the work explores strategies for survival in the current political moment.

My name is Shellyne Rodriguez.  I'm an artist and an organizer based in the Bronx, New York City and I'm here to talk about Ja'Tovia Gary's work, An Ecstatic Experience

We start with Ruby Dee's reenactment of a former enslaved woman named Fannie Moore. Dee performs the moment when Ms. Moore recounts her mother having an epiphany and jubilantly declaring that her enslavement and that of her children is over. Despite the violent lashes she receives from Master Jim, she continues her celebration, shouting, "I'm free." 

My work is really caught up with strategies of survival.  Right now, in the Bronx it's about convincing people that affordable housing is really not affordable.  It's about having to translate the doublespeak that this administration rails down on our people.  As an activist, I come outside my building and I look at the the housing projects and I'm just like,  is everybody mad enough? Are we mad enough yet  I think that we are, but we are paralyzed by so many things in so many ways.

Ja'Tovia's work really gets into the tension of it. those explosive moments. We flash from images of a black theater chorus singing "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" to the riots in Baltimore or Ferguson. It's a climax, a total ecstatic experience. It's what Fannie Moore’s mother envisioned on that field, I believe. 

Ja'Tovia Gary's film draws the audience to the head of the needle where we are all sitting. Haiti is sitting there. Undocumented folks are sitting there. Indigenous people are sitting there. Puerto Ricans are sitting there. The sick and dying planet is sitting there too. There is an inevitability that something has got to give.

We are the natural next step in this ecstatic experience. So where will we take it and what marks will we make?