The Black On Black Project

Equity over Equality™

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The Black On Black Project at Dorothea Dix Park for SEEK Raleigh

  • Dorothea Dix Park 1800 Umstead Drive Raleigh, NC, 27603 United States (map)
Photo by Jason Wolonick

Photo by Jason Wolonick

SEEK Raleigh is a temporary public art program that engages artists to use unique, non-traditional interiors, structures, and outdoor spaces for site-specific, performative, and participatory installations and experiences.

Raleigh Arts is working with community partners to launch the SEEK Raleigh program at Dorothea Dix Park May 31 to June 1. During this event the Black On Black Project will present “The Will of the Father,” a performance piece that looks at some of the history of the Dorothea Dix property. Here’s the full description of the performance piece:

This land we're now celebrating as Dix Park was once the site of the Spring Hill Plantation, home to Theophilus Hunter, Sr., one of the fathers of the city of Raleigh.

Hunter was a Representative to the House of Commons, the first Judge of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in 1771, the county's first surveyor and its first tax assessor. He was also one of seven Raleigh City Commissioners in 1795.

The earliest marked grave in Wake County is that of Hunter's, who died in 1798. His family owned the land until 1864 and, according to Ernest Dollar, director of the City of Raleigh Museum, the family is "woven into the DNA of Raleigh."

Theophilus Hunter, Sr. laid the groundwork for Raleigh's future, but what is his complete legacy and that of the Spring Hill Plantation?

Long before the first patient was admitted to what was then called Dix Hill Asylum in 1856, the land owned by Hunter and his family housed slaves. At his death, at least 61 slaves were bequeathed to his family.

"The Will of the Father" is a performance piece meant to remind us of what once was and how that affects us today. The piece, including a monologue by Johnny Lee Chapman, III, speaks to part of Hunter's legacy and how it affected the lives of the African-Americans. Choreography and movement from Anthony "Ajay" Nelson invokes the spirit of the souls bequeathed in Hunter's will, who were recognized by first name only. Nelson weaves through the 61 wooden, white markers that represent each soul Hunter left in his will.

As we celebrate the opening of Dix Park, let's remind ourselves of those souls. Let's remember the generations of slaves who toiled and tilled the land. Let's remember those souls who labored to build the hospital, the hospital that would not admit them.

The title comes from the "property" that was in the Last Will and Testament of Theophilus Hunter, Sr., and how many slaveholders justified slavery, in part, using the bible and suggesting it was the "will" of God the Father.


Friday, May 31, 8 p.m.: Video premiere of the work

Saturday, June 1, 4 - 7 p.m.: Performances on the hour