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 Post subject: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:55 pm 
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Apparently, it's somehow appropriate to hold a feminist songwriting camp at a former plantation.

Before you ask, it's privately owned. By a charmer, for sure.
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So why hold the Retreat at the Nottoway Plantation? In order to inform my outrage I wanted to know who benefits from the continued existence of the Nottoway Plantation. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but is owned and operated privately by Nottoway Plantation Inc. Nottoway Plantation Inc., with annual revenue of $2.5 to 5 million is owned by the Paul Ramsay Group. The Paul Ramsay Group, interestingly enough, is the investment arm of Australia’s thirteenth richest billionaire Paul Ramsay, a healthcare mogul well known in Australia for donating half a million dollars to conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s election campaign. So who benefits from the continued existence of the plantation? The man who has given more than $1.8 million to the anti-gay, anti-abortion, and anti-immigrant Liberal party over the last 14 years.


But history, right?
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Sorry if I killed your youthful memories ...
Slaves cutting sugar cane in the field In 1860, John Randolph owned 155 slaves and 42 slave houses which made Nottoway one of the largest plantations in the South, at a time when most owners possessed fewer than 20 slaves. Made up of both field hands and house servants, the Nottoway slave community played a very significant role in running the plantation and house.

The field hands, by far the largest group of slaves, were mainly responsible for growing and harvesting the plantation crops, primarily sugar. On average, field slaves worked 5½ days a week, with Saturday afternoon and Sunday free to tend to their own needs. A bell, still present in the Nottoway courtyard, was rung by the overseer to announce the time for rising, meals and retiring.

The life of a field hand, whether male or female, was very physically demanding, especially during harvest time. By the 1850s, plantation owners expected each slave’s labor to yield about 270 (dry) gallons of sugar in a season. When not tending a crop, the field slaves were busy clearing new land, digging ditches, cutting and hauling wood, slaughtering livestock and making repairs to buildings and tools. The women workers, on top of their daily field work, were also responsible for their own families — in addition to caring for their children and cooking the daily meals, there was also spinning, weaving, and sewing to be done. With the exception of young children and the elderly, everyone worked.

While Nottoway’s house slaves lived in the servant’s section of the house, the field slaves lived in The Quarters, a collection of cabins that stood in even rows among shade trees behind the main house. Although no original Nottoway cabins survive, it is thought that they probably each contained two rooms and a fireplace, with a vegetable plot in the back. The whitewashed houses Freed Slaves who chose to stay and work at Nottoway Plantationstood a few feet off the ground supported by pillars of bricks or logs.

The slave quarters also included a bathhouse, a hospital, and a meeting house, a relatively large and important building used for a variety of functions. During the week, it was a nursery where the oldest women watched the youngest children while everyone else worked in the fields, and on Sundays, it was used for church, as well as for weddings and other special occasions.


Considering his slaves to be valuable tools in the operation of his business, Randolph provided the necessary care to keep them in good health. He understood the importance of hygiene in controlling the spread of illnesses and disease, so he provided a bathhouse where slaves could bathe daily if they wished. He also had a slave hospital; he paid a local physician to make weekly visits and trained one of the slaves as a nurse to care for his slaves.

Ever the astute businessman, Randolph knew that in order to maintain a willing workforce, it was necessary to provide not only for his slaves’ basic needs for housing, food and medicine, but to also offer additional compensation and rewards when their work was especially productive. Every New Year’s Day, John Randolph would give the field slaves a hog to cook and the Randolph family would eat with them in The Quarters. There would be music and dancing, and the Randolphs would give the slaves gifts of clothing, small toys and fruit, as well as a sum of money for each family. In addition, the workers received an annual bonus based on their production.

It is difficult to accurately assess the treatment of Randolph’s slaves; however, various records indicate that they were probably well treated for the time.

After the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, most of Randolph’s slaves chose to stay and continue to work at Nottoway, but finally, as properly compensated free men and women. Many descendants of those freed slaves have worked at Nottoway throughout the years.





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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 7:59 pm 
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This makes me absolutely sick. I would be outraged if a Republican were doing this (I don't know, Ted Nugent or something?) but for Ani DiFranco, who was such a seminal part for so many feminists and queers of my generation to do this makes me want to cry.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 8:47 pm 
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Wow. I am shocked. I kept thinking it had to be from The Onion.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:07 pm 
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Plenty of places all over the US and Canada (and Europe. And beyond) are the sites of horrible former atrocities--prison camps, plantations, sites of warfare and massacre and human trafficking. Does this mean that they shouldn't be used after they have been transformed? This place is now a retreat center/wedding venue, so this kind of thing is standard there. Lots of former plantations and places where slaves were traded, or groups of people corralled and/or detained, are now used as other spaces. Is there possibly something transformative about having a feminist songwriting camp on that ground? In the 60s, the Living Theatre performed their utopian performance "Paradise Now" in Germany in a stadium where Goebbels attacked Jews.

It's a different argument to criticize DiFranco for using it the money goes back to the Paul Ramsay group, but each of us every day gives money to corporations with values that conflict with ours.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:18 pm 
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I am perfectly fine with living testaments to the worst that humanity can do--the rape, murder, and generations-long subjugation of a people--being off-limits for a bunch of wealthy white ladies to go self-actualize themselves. This is not a plantation that is ashamed of it its history and works to make reparations, this is one that celebrates the fact that the plantation owner was so magnanimous as to give the people he owned working toilets.

And I'd say this can only be called a feminist songwriting camp if we are resigning ourselves to a feminism that says feminism can betray and alienate women of colour for the sake of money and the spiritual growth of white women. I'm not okay with that line.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:28 pm 
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I am having a hard time romanticizing a camp that costs at the very least $1100 (if you tent camp) and takes place in what is essentially a luxury resort with rooms that cost about $300 a night. They misinform their guests about the reality of slavery and make a shiitake tonne of money doing so.

This is about being insensitive to people of color, ignoring history, and making a bunch of cash. If it were Ted Nugent, it would not be acceptable. I refuse to give DiFranco a pass.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:30 pm 
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To clarify:"feminist songwriting camp" is a phrase borrowed from the OP. Attacking DiFranco for her brand of feminism and her practice doesn't seem to be the point of this thread, as framed by the OP. Though that could, of course, be its own enlightening thread. Here, I'm curious about this particular outrage given the widespread practice of transforming sites of history and/or trauma into new spaces like conference centers.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:35 pm 
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I'm curious how a luxury resort that ignores the reality of slavery has really been transformed regardless of how many well-heeled feminists decide to hang out there and line someone's pockets with filthy lucre.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:36 pm 
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So the problem, as you see it, is that she should have held this somewhere else. And, that the entire event is wrong because of her brand of feminism? I'm just trying to understand the argument here.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:38 pm 
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I am criticizing the type of feminism DiFranco is practicing--and her supporters and defenders are practicing--by holding a "feminist songwriting camp" at a Plantation that romanticizes slavery. That seems, to me, to be very much the point of this thread.

Edit: the entire event is wrong because she is espousing a philosophy and politic that is supposed to be liberatory while trampling on the graves of slaves. And because even if it somehow didn't occur to a single person involved in the organization of the event that it was anti-feminist to hold an event in a place that traded in the bodies of enslaved people, there has been huge outcry from women of colour about how much of a betrayal this is and she hasn't responded to it.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:41 pm 
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Is it okay for someone to romanticize slavery? I can break this down into the tiniest , of pieces but I think, to be honest, you are purposely ignoring that point.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:42 pm 
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It's not just a generic conference center. If you look a their webpage, everything about it is "come experience the luxurious antebellum lifestyle!" It's celebrating the white lifestyle that was financed by slavery. The description of some of the places that you can stay includes, "Although the Cottages and Carriage House resemble original plantation buildings, inside you will find modern luxury hotel hotel rooms with plush, welcoming beds, private deluxe baths and full amenities. Each cottage has 2 individual units with a single covered porch and oversized rocking chairs, and the Carriage House rooms overlook the plantation grounds or sugarcane fields." Although they don't say WHICH original plantation buildings those cottages resemble, the only ones that make any sense are slave quarters.


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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:47 pm 
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Vantine wrote:
Is it okay for someone to romanticize slavery? I can break this down into the tiniest , of pieces but I think, to be honest, you are purposely ignoring that point.


Thank you for attacking me! Always a pleasure.

I piped into this conversation because I'm interested in repurposed spaces, places that have been transformed from places of trauma into other spaces. There's an interesting conversation to be had about legacies of trauma and history, and transforming spaces through communal events. That may not be the case here, and I haven't thought much about DiFranco since the late 90s and don't know much about her now. I was trying to figure out the argument in more detail, that's all. I didn't realize this was a thread about digging into DiFranco. But carry on.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:48 pm 
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Larisa wrote:
It's not just a generic conference center. If you look a their webpage, everything about it is "come experience the luxurious antebellum lifestyle!" It's celebrating the white lifestyle that was financed by slavery. The description of some of the places that you can stay includes, "Although the Cottages and Carriage House resemble original plantation buildings, inside you will find modern luxury hotel hotel rooms with plush, welcoming beds, private deluxe baths and full amenities. Each cottage has 2 individual units with a single covered porch and oversized rocking chairs, and the Carriage House rooms overlook the plantation grounds or sugarcane fields." Although they don't say WHICH original plantation buildings those cottages resemble, the only ones that make any sense are slave quarters.


That's helpful. Thank you.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:09 pm 
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We have a lot of sites like this in Virginia, but most are maintained as living history memorials and education centers (when they aren't trying to build Walmart super centers on top of them). I think that makes a big difference. Places like Monticello, Mount Vernon, and Montpelier are not trying to glamorize the past with mint juleps on the veranda. You can't go visit and leave without realizing how much life sucked for most people, how brutal slavery was, and how unsustainable the entire plantation system was without slavery. Recent research and documents have shown how quickly Jefferson changed his views on slavery once he worked out the economic realities.

I think transforming and repurposing spaces is an interesting discussion, but that would involve building something better that both acknowledges the past and presents something that also fosters positive forward movement. An off topic example I can think of here is Norris Hall at Virginia Tech. It wasn't feasible to tear it down and nobody can ignore what happened there, but nobody is trying to ignore it either.

Basically, what Larisa wrote.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:23 am 
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You know its bad when Cathy Brennan is on your event page trying to call you out.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 12:55 am 
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That page is just amazing right now.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 4:27 am 
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I think it is impossible to criticise the event without also criticizing Difranco's feminism as the two are linked here. Organising a non-inclusive event (from the point of view of cost as well as location) and also ignoring any critique of that event from POC means to me that her ethical framework and hence her feminism is suspect.

And I agree that this location seems to be Legoland Slave pack. Maybe she should move the event to the Shanty Town hotel.

Mat.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:44 am 
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molasses jane wrote:
I piped into this conversation because I'm interested in repurposed spaces, places that have been transformed from places of trauma into other spaces. There's an interesting conversation to be had about legacies of trauma and history, and transforming spaces through communal events. That may not be the case here, and I haven't thought much about DiFranco since the late 90s and don't know much about her now. I was trying to figure out the argument in more detail, that's all. I didn't realize this was a thread about digging into DiFranco. But carry on.


Pity. I was (am) also interested in the re-purposing of spaces.
That now seems tangential, at best, to where this thread has gone.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 7:51 am 
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But to transform a place that represents and was actively used to enslave people of color would necessarily involve those people. That is not what is happening here. How can a rich white woman reclaim a place that was used to enslave POC?

I've read James E. Young on Holocaust memorials. I don't see that a great transformative repurposing has happened in this case. A house belonging to rich white people that was a site of great suffering has been turned into an expensive resort that casts the suffering in the best light possible for the rich people who caused it. That would seem to me to be an extension of what was done in the past, not a tranformation.

I don't want to ignore or disregard the outrage about this event by turning it into a theoretic conversation about something that is not happening at this particular place.

If you are on Twitter, the hashtag #righteousretreat is being used by critics to try to get DiFranco to cancel or change the venue. There are some linksto critiques of the event.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:41 am 
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Vantine wrote:
But to transform a place that represents and was actively used to enslave people of color would necessarily involve those people.


This.

One of the things that has been so shocking on the FB page is that a poster kept dismissing the concerns about the plantation, and then went as far as to create a fake account for a ostensibly black woman, LaQueeta Jones, where she then pretended to be black (with a fake photo and a lot of very problematic language) to state that she was okay with the event. Of course the event organizers then deleted all her posts. Of course a lot of people had taken screen shots by that time.

http://latinagabi.tumblr.com/post/71433 ... head-again

At the end of the day, the absolute refusal to listen to people of color and their feelings about a place that whitewashes the history of slavery is deeply problematic. If you think feminism should include women of color, then you have to start listening to what they are saying. http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/04/the ... r-justice/

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:58 am 
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Larisa wrote:
It's not just a generic conference center. If you look a their webpage, everything about it is "come experience the luxurious antebellum lifestyle!" It's celebrating the white lifestyle that was financed by slavery.



I think this is a key point. My first reaction when reading about this here was, well, it's the South--every potential corporate retreat site on a bunch of open land is probably going to be someone's former plantation, right? I am much more bothered by the embrace of a "luxurious antebellum lifestyle" that clearly was only luxurious for a tiny few than I am by the cost of the event or the simple fact of it being on the site of a former slaveholding plantation.


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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 10:09 am 
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I was (am) also interested in the re-purposing of spaces.


I think that we can have that discussion as well, though perhaps it deserves its own thread. I agree with Vantine that any "re-purposing" or transforming of a problematic place has to include input from the people who were affected by it, and it has to include a real ownership of the problems involved.

I really don't get how you transform the problematic legacy of a place without even acknowledging that slavery was problematic. When the representatives of the location talk about how the slave owner recognized the value of his slaves (as tools not as people) so he gave them access to medical care and bathrooms and a space to shower, and then describes the slaves as a "willing workforce" and says things like "It is difficult to accurately assess the treatment of Randolph’s slaves; however, various records indicate that they were probably well treated for the time" really is just trivializing slavery and justifying the history, not taking ownership of the history and transforming it.

You can't just take a problematic place and pretend that its history either didn't exist or exploit the pretty pieces that you like while ignoring those you don't, and call it transformation.

In effect the owners of the plantation and Ani DiFranco's team are saying "Well it happened a really long time ago, so it doesn't matter." Which is a nice spot on the White Privilege bingo card.
http://towishonspacehardware.tumblr.com ... -privilege

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 10:23 am 
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lutin wrote:
molasses jane wrote:
I piped into this conversation because I'm interested in repurposed spaces, places that have been transformed from places of trauma into other spaces. There's an interesting conversation to be had about legacies of trauma and history, and transforming spaces through communal events. That may not be the case here, and I haven't thought much about DiFranco since the late 90s and don't know much about her now. I was trying to figure out the argument in more detail, that's all. I didn't realize this was a thread about digging into DiFranco. But carry on.


Pity. I was (am) also interested in the re-purposing of spaces.
That now seems tangential, at best, to where this thread has gone.


But Lutin, you are forgetting that in the Parlor, the only acceptable response in a thread is "you are right. this is outrageous." Having a question, an interest in investigating the topic at hand, or not interpreting the OP in the "right" way means that you are "purposely missing the point" and/or implied to be an idiot, and/or only interested in the theoretical.

Annak's response to Larisa articulates my initial thoughts.

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 Post subject: Re: Ani DiFranco hosts retreat at former plantation!
PostPosted: Sun Dec 29, 2013 10:37 am 
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molasses jane wrote:
But Lutin, you are forgetting that in the Parlor, the only acceptable response in a thread is "you are right. this is outrageous." Having a question, an interest in investigating the topic at hand, or not interpreting the OP in the "right" way means that you are "purposely missing the point" and/or implied to be an idiot, and/or only interested in the theoretical.

Annak's response to Larisa articulates my initial thoughts.


I really don't see anyone doing that to you here.

I specifically addressed your points and Lutin's above, as did Vantine. I would be very interested in your thoughts on repurposing a problematic space - and am intrigued as to how you would do so without a clear acknowledgement of the problematic history of the place.

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