while riding their bicycles over 3,000 miles connecting Underground Railroad and abolitionist sites, archives and museums, artists Kelsey Robinson and Di-ay Batted are creating musical performance, dance, video and literature in response to regional histories of slavery in North America.
"Talking with Ghosts About Freedom" is a project tying threads between the history of enslaved Africans, their passage towards emancipation, the culture they have bestowed upon the nation and the earth they tilled and fled over.
Starting in Mobile, Alabama and shooting over 2,000 miles north to Owen Sound, Ontario Adventure Cycling Network’s Underground Railroad Trail runs predominantly alongside water courses and crosses 6 state lines; bridging Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario. National Park Service’s Network to Freedom database is another guiding resource in building a trans-national trail.
The goal of this project is to create new music, literature, performance and video art that sustain and foster interest in African American heritage and the phenomenally intricate and courageous escape of an estimated one hundred thousand Africans and African-Americans.
Essential to this project is the intimate engagement in outdoor recreation in the natural world which, as it currently exists, is very exclusive to people (especially women) of color.
In October 2018, Kelly Strayhorn Theater through its Freshworks residency gave Talking With Ghosts About Freedom a chance for a prototype of the project - a three-day bicycle tour in Western PA, followed by an in-progress performance at KST’s Alloy Studios.
in-progress performance documentation
interview with Kelsey Robinson and Di-ay Battad
Heightened Journal Text from Pittsburgh to New Brighton cycling tour