Black Gotham Experience is an immersive multimedia project that celebrates the impact of the African Diaspora on New York City. Black Gotham is a real and imagined place, an expansive public experience that includes walking tours through Manhattan’s Financial District, a developing series of graphic novels, art, food, and entertainment. The heart of this experience are three stories that revisit Manhattan in 1623 and move forward through the next three centuries. These stories are the Other Side of Wall Street, Caesar’s Rebellion, and Citizen Hope. Each story will exist as a walking tour and a photography-based graphic novel.
Black Gotham began in 2010 when visual storyteller, Kamau Ware created a walking tour dedicated to exploring NYC’s African past. Dissatisfied with the absence of these histories from popular tours and textbooks alike, Kamau conceptualized Black Gotham as a visual and physical intervention in the cityscape. Black Gotham combines history and visual storytelling to bring New York’s Black heritage into public consciousness. With an Advisory Board, Creative Team, and engaged minds, the Black Gotham experience recovers the stories of many voices that have been suppressed by official histories and mostly forgotten by the public.
Other Side of Wall Street has been in development for five years as both a walking tour and graphic novel. From our understanding, this is the first time a story is told as a trilogy comprised of a shared physical experience and a personal reading experience - fusing art and learning. This kickstarter campaign will bring to life half a decade of work to a portable art form that is both historically rich and aesthetically pleasing. Also important to the creative team is the filling of an historical void in both American history and the African Diaspora.
Other Side of Wall Street brings you into the world of New Netherland in the 17th century from the perspective of a Black community that began to form in 1643 when Catalina and Domingo were collectively awarded 20 acres of land in present day West Village. Over the next 23 years twenty-six more formerly company owned slaves of the Dutch West India Company will earn acreage spanning approximately 130 acres from the west side of the island to Gramercy Park. This area was known as Land of the Blacks and it predates the “discovered” African Burial Ground by Foley Square. This community of over 28 families will literally be in the middle of Dutch and Indian wars and the Anglo-Dutch wars that ultimately changes the identity of the region from New Netherland to New York. With these changes came new laws, customs, and an expanding slave trade on Wall Street, a street that many of them helped build. Choosing key characters from this time period, namely those Africans who were stolen by Dutch pirates off of Spanish/Portuguese slave ships and brought to New Netherland to work as company slaves, we recreate their lives and see what they saw – on the other side of Wall Street.
Black Gotham Experience is the flagship project of Kamau Studios LLC - a storystyle photography lab based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. We specialize in narrating powerful photography-based visual stories for families, artists, brands, and non-profit organizations. This includes studio sessions, special events, and short films. Creatives on the Kamau Studios team include founder Kamau Ware, Geneva L. White, Kenneth Dixon, Justin J., Berry, Tann Parker, and Studio Assistant Laikyn Fishburne.
Producing Other Side of Wall Street is like making a movie. People have to be cast to play the roles of characters in our story. The casting of talent and everyday people to bring forgotten people's lives to life is a key ingredient in this trilogy of graphic novels. The production process will follow a tight storyboard, capturing the shots that tell the story. We will literally be on set shooting. The only difference is the images will be still and not moving.
Other key creatives working on this project include artist and creative director, Adrian Franks and author Lesley Ware. Adrian will be the Creative Director and lead the design team. Lesley will be the Costume Designer creating the looks for the characters or sourcing them.
There are a number of key advantages that will make it feasible to getting this project done.
1) We are knowledgeable of the publishing process.
2) We already have a photography studio so funds can concentrate on production.
3) We manage projects all the time for clients from multiple day photo shoots to short films. We have systems in place to move this forward.
4) Last and not least, we have a capable Advisory Board that has helped guide this concept from a cool idea to a one-of-a-kind project that marries art and history into an immersive learning experience that is entertaining.
Similar to a movie, once funding is secured, Other Side of Wall Street will go through five phases: (1) Pre-Production, (2) Production, (3) Post-Production, (4) Printing, and (5) Distribution. Printing and distribution costs for this book are not part of this funding. Phases 1-3 are covered, funds pay for the talent, costuming, props, and design. Here’s a quick rundown to the three phases included in this scope.
Phase I (Pre-Production) Casting characters; Costume creation; Secure props
Phase II (Production) Rehearsal with talent; Shoot scenes
Phase III (Post-Production) Creative direction, design & layout
Our Advisory Board includes intellectuals, artists, an emcee, a fashionista, an oral historian, a food culturist, published authors, and above all - great souls. They are Wes Alcenat, Benji de la Piedra, Adrian Franks, Allison Powers, JR Robinson, Nicole A. Taylor, and Lesley Ware.
Risks and challenges
The greatest risk to the project is casting. By casting people of today to play the roles of those forgotten, we are inviting them to be an integral part of a process that they will just begin getting familiar with. For example, we have to cast Manuel Trumpeter who was the captain of the Black Militia that served the Dutch West India Company in New Netherland. He was a huge man most likely from the Congo. We have some creative license in selecting this person but they have to possess not only the right features but disposition too. It would defeat the purpose of the project to select talent randomly. The selection process is key but also a challenge.
We are hopeful though. The young lady who plays the role of Catalina is also on the creative team – Tann Parker. She just graduated from Pratt and was interested in helping make the costumes. One day it just became clear that her presence fit Catalina, the first African in New Netherland to earn acres of land along with her husband Domingo in 1643.
We are inspired by risks and challenges. That's how new worlds are discovered and created. On behalf of the Founder, Advisory Board, Creative Team, and the Souls whose stories we tell - Thank You for your attention and hopefully your support.
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