WE WERE HERE
A resident artist of SJTC 2021 wrote and staged a play on an under-reported story of the black historical figures in Saint John, New Brunswick.
In February 2021, in the framework of celebrations dedicated to the Black History Month, SJTC and ARC proudly presented an important project featuring the diverse history of our city with an original production "We Were Here" written and staged by Clyde A. Wray, the local poet.
In autumn 2020, Wray became the first resident artist of SJTC with an original poetic production supported by ARC to tell the stories of less known black historical figures of the Saint John region. In the process of extensive research in the city archives and in cooperation with the New Brunswick Black History Society, as well as after multiple interviews with the remaining descendants and friends of those who participated in the production, Wray wrote a series of monologues to make a 90 minute production. Quoting Wray, "We Were Here" is the most important production I’ve ever staged. Embodying real historical figures into life is a responsibility and a burden you willingly take. We should tell the truth and commit to their lives. «Buried by time and oblivion, those stories were hidden with racism or considered insignificant, but they are important».
"We Were Here" shares the stories of eight historical figures – all black: (1) Eldridge Eatman I (performed by Damon Levine); (2) Josiah Henson (performed by Gordi Munro); (3) Cornelius Sparrow (performed by Neil S. Clements); (4) Dr. Constance Timberlake (performed by Olive Ozoemena); (5) Edward Mitchell Bannister (performed by Tallas Munro); (6) Abraham Beverley Walker (performed by Timothy Christie); (7) Georgina Whetsel (performed by Tanya MacPherson); and (8) Lena O’Ree (performed by Joanna Daramola). The goal of creating "We Were Here" as a film was not only to tell the residents of Saint John, New Brunswick, about the great history of black people in their own community, but to draw the attention of people all across to world to that story. It was Clyde A. Wray, an outstanding poet, playwright and director, that drew people’s attention to the unjustness of the fact that the stories of prominent representatives of the black population had been practically erased from the history books of Atlantic Canada. Then he raised the issue during his conversation with Steven Tobias, Executive Director of Saint John Theatre Company. After the first discussion, SJTC decided to use their platform to shed the light on the incredible stories of the local black historical personalities. Due to the talent of Clyde A. Wray as a playwright and director, and of the local actors — both amateurs and professionals – and SJTC resources, "We Were Here" was born in February 2021.