Deborah Thomas, Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies, has received funding from Penn’s Global Engagement Fund and the Ford Foundation to support BAD FRIDAY IN AFRICA: ROOTS, RIGHTS, REPARATIONS. With this support, Thomas, John L. Jackson, Jr. (SAS, Annenberg School for Communication), and Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn will be screening their documentary film, BAD FRIDAY: RASTAFARI AFTER CORAL GARDENS, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa, and conducting media ethnography workshops in a variety of university and community settings.
BAD FRIDAY, which has been featured at several international film festivals and screened on university campuses across the country, focuses on state violence against Rastafari in Jamaica, and specifically on what is called the “Coral Gardens incident” of 1963. The film highlights a community of Rastafari in western Jamaica who annually commemorate this incident, a moment just after independence (1962) when the Jamaican government rounded up, jailed and tortured hundreds of Rastafarians. It chronicles the history of violence in Jamaica through the eyes of its most iconic community, and shows how people use their recollections of past traumas to imagine new possibilities for a collective future.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the incident in question, as well as the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by Emperor Haile Selassie I (the Rastafari Messiah). Because of the confluence of these events, and because societies throughout the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa have been struggling with the continuation of forms of colonial violence during the post-colonial period, Thomas and company are seeking to use the film as a springboard for broader discussions about violence in our communities. The goals of the South Africa tour are 1) to promote cultural and political awareness and exchange between African and African diasporic communities through a discussion of forms of violence that have been foundational to these societies, and their present implications; and, 2) to use expressive cultural forms and ethnographic methods to facilitate political linkages among and between these communities and human rights and social justice organizations working to counter these legacies.
Thomas, Jackson and Wedderburn (music director and one of the producers of BAD FRIDAY) will be accompanied by Ancient Vibrations, the percussion group led by Wedderburn, as well as a number of undergraduate and graduate students who have been interested in the use of film as a tool for ethnographic research and community building. BAD FRIDAY IN AFRICA is also being supported by the School of Arts and Sciences, the Annenberg School for Communication, and the Penn Undergraduate Research Mentoring Program.
For more information, check out the BAD FRIDAY website, here.