Our project is one that we feel is very important to society today. Slavery is not only a part of our history, it is part of our present day lives. We can no longer afford to look the other way. It is possible to make a difference. The first step is awareness.
The Blue Bead Project
What is it?
The Blue Bead Project is about giving a voice to the voiceless. It is about awareness intended to bring about change and healing.
It is designed to raise awareness for modern slavery. It included a large installation that was displayed during ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Mi. in 2015.
Our piece now resides at the end of the old Underground Railroad, Salem Chapel in St. Catherine's, Ontario. The same chapel where Harriet Tubman guided the slaves to their new life in Canada. Today it is time to begin a new underground railroad. And we want you to be a part of it.
Presently our campaign includes the mission to get 21 million beads on 21 million people. One for each person trapped in slavery today. We don't care how you wear it, just that you do! It serves as a visual reminder to chose to NOT support slavery, in any form. Wear the bead to show your support, to start a conversation, to remember, to act up, to speak out. We all have our reasons, we hope you will share yours.
Why a Blue Bead?
Beads are one of the earliest forms of currency used in trade. The Blue Trade Beads were used between the 15th and 20th Centuries as currency, in exchange for gold, ivory, land and slaves, which lead to the name "Slave Bead". They were most widely used during the 17th century when the Dutch East India Company used them. The pentagonal shaped beads were made in Amsterdam though the Venetians dominated production.
Thirty blue slave beads were allegedly used by the Dutch to purchase New York's Manhattan Island from the Native Americans. In some areas they were used to pay wages, allowing some slaves to buy their freedom. After emanciapation, legend says that the ex slaves of St. Eustatius gathered up all the beads and threw them into the ocean, where divers still find them today.
These Blue Glass Beads have been found repeatedly in the graves of African American Slaves in the United States and elsewhere. We have to wonder, if these beads could have been used to buy freedom, why were they taken to the grave? If they had such value in trade, why were they thrown into the ocean? We believe they were used in offering to Yemaja, an African orisha. She is the ocean and the one who connected them to home.
Because of this, we chose the blue bead to wear as a reminder that slavery still exists. It reminds us to stand up and to speak out for those who cannot. Now is the time to change the culture that still allows this type of oppression. Our beads are hand made by a local artisan from recycled blue glass.