The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins

Dance Company + Record Label + Liberation Garden
June 8, 1765: "Woman Slave hanged her Self between Decks" While most slave ships worked their way along the coast, the Sally appears to have remained largely in one place, apparently at a small British slave "factory" near the mouth of the River Grande, in what is today Guinea-Bissau. Hopkins traded rum with passing slave ships, acquiring manufactured goods like cloth, iron bars, and guns, which he then used to acquire slaves. On June 8, 1765, he purchased his 108th captive. That same day, an enslaved woman committed suicide. She was the second captive to die on the ship.-- Brown University's Center for Digital Initiatives + The John Carter Brown Library






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October 18, 2020 (PRONK! 2020)

Originator of: Jess Brown

Art + Performance Director: Matt Garza

Dramaturgy: April Brown + Matt Garza + Seydou Coulibaly

Written by: Matt Garza + April Brown + Jess Brown +

Choreography: Assi Coulibaly + Matt Garza, Haus of Glitter Dance Company

Performers / Protestors: April Brown + Jess Brown + Assi Coulibaly + Simony + Anthony Andrade + Steven Choummalaithong + Matt Garza + Trent Lee + Alexx Temena

Honored Guest Performers: Seydou Coulibaly, Moussa Coulibaly, Darlene Andrade, Jada Littlejohn, The Eastern Medicine Singers, Haus of Caribe, Manny Escobar, Clam Jam Brass Band

Hair: Simony

Costumes: Noel Puello

Makeup: Anthony Andrade + Abigail Page

Floral Art: Darlene Andrade + What Cheer Flower Company + Whole Foods

Floral Sculpture: Helen + Sussy Santana

Photography: Stephanie Ewens (above), Allam Mella

Videography: Preston Powell, Court King (Instagram Live), Julio Berroa (Facebook Live)

Community Spotlight Organizations: Movement Education Outdoors, The Langston Hughes Community Poetry Reading, RIBS: RI Black Storytellers, black earth lab, YIA: Youth In Action

The Historical Fantasy of Esek Hopkins

When we say “historic restoration”, whose restoration are we referring to? “THE HISTORIC FANTASY OF ESEK HOPKINS” is a historical intervention + original album + live multimedia performance + community ritual/protest + graphic novel/coloring book + curriculum by The Haus of Glitter Performance Lab, part of a two-year PARKIST Artist Residency with the Providence Parks Dept. & The Dept. of Art+Culture+Tourism at the former Historic Esek Hopkins Homestead & Park (1754). In solidarity & collaboration with our ancestors, elders, community and each other, our practice aims to investigate lineage & to shift the energetic center of the universe towards Queer Feminist BIPOC Wisdom, Healing, & Collective Liberation. We have been rehearsing for the revolution.


Photos: Allam Mella


From Jan 1, 2020 - Dec 31, 2021, I am living, with my Queer PoC family, in the former home of Esek Hopkins, widely known as the first commander-in-chief of the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. During this term, Esek Hopkins (1718-1802) tortured British prisoners of war, disobeyed orders to protect his interest in the human slave trade, & profited off the war. During the period after the revolution, when RI merchants controlled 60-90 percent of the transatlantic slave trade, Esek was hired to command the slave ship “Sally” to purchase kidnapped humans from the coast of Africa & bring them to America, land of the free, to be sold into slavery. Why is there a middle school named after him full of brilliant Black & Brown children down the street? Why is his house, a symbol of white supremacy, worth preserving as it’s been when it could be returned into a space that feels free for all humans? What does it mean for my Queer PoC Glitter Family to be living, creating, liberating, fighting, feeling, & healing here? Our intention is for this home, this land, is for it to be given back to the people.

Now reclaimed as The Historic Haus of Glitter Performance Lab + Parq, everything we create here, with this Earthspace, aims to honor the bodies, minds, & souls lost to the plague of white supremacy; the legacy of creativity & activism we inherited from our ancestors; & the human beings who were stolen, tortured & brought to the Americas on the slave ship Sally, commanded by Esek Hopkins. Everything we create here is a protest-demonstration against the system that tells us that Esek Hopkins’ former home is worth preserving. It must be transformed.

THE HISTORICAL FANTASY OF ESEK HOPKINS serves as the creative performance container for this two-year residency. In 2020, we are finishing writing, recording & self-producing our record label’s 7th original album project- THE HISTORICAL FANTASY OF ESEK HOPKINS, while we finish writing the foundational text and illustrations for our curriculum + graphic novel. As we cleanse, re-orient & reclaim the indoor space & outdoor landscape as a part of our liberation, writing, & choreographic process, we are researching & working to listen to the wisdom left behind by our Queer//Femme//BIPOC ancestors - in the space, on the land & pumping through our veins. This project tells the story of how our lineages intersect with the Esek Hopkins legacy of white supremacy. We have been choreographing and creating music as a singular process. In 2021, we plan to record community features + interludes on the album; teach our choreography to an intergenerational cast of local BIPOC actors and dancers; and perform the site-specific dance concert/protest (both live) with our original music. This immersive dance-theatre piece (with film projection) runs between 90-100 minutes & will ground all choreography, visuals, design, fashion, film, projection, music & culture in our Queer BIPOC tradition, technique & aesthetic - covid19 developments will impact various stagings of this piece and we’re ready to adapt! The performance film will be released in Winter 2021- 2022. We are subverting the truth we inherited by imagining nameless, underrepresented & erased Queer/Femme/BIPOC lives as fully realized humans with bodies & stories & movement. Our elder mentors are passing on this ancient wisdom & it is our lifelong commitment to embody this responsibility with honor, integrity & pride.


Photos: Rey Londres


Esek Hopkins’ untold story is relevant to New England as a whole; but our legacy in West African (Malian) & Latinx Dance feels especially important to represent contributions & systemic oppression of BIPOC people in the colonization & construction of New England. Now, the people of New England need to hear this story through our lips. Our work is ancestral work. This is my family. So, we are tracing this lineage of dance & how the bodies who have carried this dance have traveled, often not by choice. From colonization, slavery, gentrification, centralization, migration, internalization & refuge, our work teaches where Contemporary Hip-Hop & Afro-Latinx dance comes from - where we all come from. Not only does our work represent Black, Latinx, Indigenous & Asian bodies, but the content of our work represents the stories, truths, colors, shapes, & vibrations that live in our bones. Our practice proposes a reality where colonization never happened & the slave revolts were successful. Our process attempts to strip away the symptoms of trauma that plague us & embody the process of being together - of manifesting - that our ancestors were fighting for.

We are proud to have a strong audienceship of white Allies & BIPOC families who breathe with us & cry with us & mourn with us & heal with us & feel with us & dance with us, too! We hope for our audience to feel empowered to dismantle ideological, internalized, interpersonal & institutional oppression; to imagine & fight for a more loving & liberating world. Even our staged concerts are designed to invoke participation; call & response; to be called into the rehearsal for the revolution. Dance & Dance Education still centers European & Assimilationist tradition. African dance, Bachata, Salsa, Vogue, Dancehall, House, & Hip-Hop are consistently marginalized & criminalized. I dream of the day when our BIPOC community can purchase tickets to the largest performing arts centers in our state, to watch BIPOC art & truth.


Photos: Rey Londres


Our anticipated audienceship is based on numbers from our most recent live youth dance concert, choreographed, produced & directed by the Haus of Glitter. For this piece, we anticipate offering a safe site specific live performance run followed by a premiere of the performance film for our virtual audience. The performance film will not be only documentation of the live performance, but include a supplemental creative process that utilizes our choreographic vision as well as other storytelling devices & archival footage. Through our six-year partnership with TAPA: Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts, our performance cycle always concludes with an annual diversity equity + inclusion conference to promote how BIPOC dance, music & culture can transform the culture of schooling & we train educators on how to bring yoga/mindfulness + BIPOC + Hip-Hop culture, leadership, history, activism & practices into schools. Our performances have become classroom resources; and in addition to a live performance + performance film + original music + original curriculum, we are also publishing our second virtual graphic novel + coloring book which teaches the REAL history of Esek Hopkins. We believe that we cannot think ourselves out of racism. We need to feel ourselves out of racism - & this is the power of art. When we have dance concerts, we perform daytime matinees for local schools and youth orgs like AS220 Youth, Vartan Gregorian Elementary, the Learning Community, The Wheeler School & Nowell Academy. Through our partnership with Pushed Learning & Media & Project Wayfinder, we have designed curriculum for & trained schools, youth organizations & educators in Chile, Vermont, Texas, New York, LA, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Connecticut, North Carolina, California, Philadelphia, Mali, & South Korea. We plan to bring this piece & its accompanying curriculum/professional development to our community partners & the schools across the globe that we support.


Photos: Rey Londres


This piece & our lives have become a disruption of the RI Historical Archives. We are the first glitter family of our kind living in this house & for us, this began to feel like living history - discovering a new level of agency in the inherent disruption that our mere existence proposes in proximity to the privilege that this house represents. Before moving in our first suitcase, Trent, Anthony, & I devised an original piece “CLEANING // PROTECTION” in the house - an endurance ritual to conjure ancestral and intergalactic boundaries, portals & force fields for this project.

In our first year of this residency, our choreographic, writing and design process has focused on strengthening our relationship with our familial & community elders; getting to know our neighbors in the housing projects across the street & the families who frequent the playground & Dunkin next door; grounding & refining our creative process to have boundaries with whiteness, colonization, toxic masculinity, & our trauma; healing together - finding liberation in every breath; connecting with our community partners, friends, family, students, community leaders, & closest artistic collaborators about the history of this space & our invitation for collective reclamation; researching with local historians, culture-bearers, & archival collections to follow the lineage of white supremacy & identify the Black & Brown bodies represented (often nameless, on inventory lists) & missing from the story; & finally, negotiating, disrupting & advocating from our seat at the table in the City of Providence to build a sustainable, trusting & honest relationship so that we can keep this door open for the young artists of color who we are raising to be the next generation of artists, educators & healers.

In the Winter & Spring of 2021, we will be teaching and rehearsing both the live performance and film scenes so that in the Summer, we can film - both in RI & with our elder community in Bamako, Mali at the Yeredon Center for the Malian Arts - & prepare for a fall premiere of our live site specific performance run. In Feb of 2022, we will release our second digital graphic novel, host our annual DEI conference & facilitate our newly developed curriculum & teacher training. We are open to intergenerational community tours (elder communities, youth orgs, higher ed, K-12 schools, activist spaces, LGBTQ+ centers, historical societies, & public demonstrations, etc…) to share live performance segments, film screenings, workshops, panels, lectures & additional trainings.

This project will have an intergenerational cast & will depict our own visual-audio archives of the community we are fighting for when we march through the streets. Everything we’ve created has been on the backs of our brilliant ancestors & from the generous strength of our community. This piece is a gift of truth & gratitude to our audience & our elders - to be an entirely BIPOC dance company, centered in Queer Feminist BIPOC tradition, technique & process sharing our truth & representing the truths buried by lies in the trauma of schooling & mechanization. Our community has always been represented in our process & they always will be. Their faces & bodies & movement will be in the work.


Photos: Rey Londres


When COVID-19 struck, The Haus of Glitter began teaching daily virtual yoga classes to promote consistent mental health practice & raised almost $9,000 for a Glitter Goddess Relief Fund to support our students, collaborators, elders & audienceship with financial relief as well as care packages, groceries, & medicine. Throughout the Summer, our entirely BIPOC Haus of Glitter team has produced virtual + outdoor social distant curated performances & performance art demonstrations, historical tours, music concerts, BIPOC film screenings, intergenerational community garden programming, yoga+meditation+dance classes & retreats, activist art builds, & youth-led protests. The community that once filled auditoriums, theatres & blackboxes for our dance concerts has now danced here & breathed here & cried here & mourned here & dreamed here with us. Ultimately, the plaque on Esek Hopkins' former home reads that he was the “First Commander In Chief of the First American Navy” - there is information missing. Not only this, but immense resources have been poured into the space that bears this plaque. New England deserves a more just version of the story we’ve inherited & The Haus of Glitter wants to share this with our community the best we know how - by pouring our rich ancestral practice of creative excellence & radical imagination into the work. The story we want to tell is our community’s story. They are a part of our movement - none of us would be here without our community.


Photos: AM. (Anthony Andrade)