A Wexford Civil Rights Festival has been organised to commemorate the historic visit to Wexford almost 175 years ago of the famous American activist, writer and orator Frederick Douglass.
Mr. Douglass, a runaway slave who went on to become an international campaigner for the abolition of slavery, and an adviser to President Abraham Lincoln, addressed a meeting in the Assembly Rooms (now Wexford Arts Centre) in October 1845.
He was also a friend of Irish political leader Daniel O' Connell, acquiring the nickname 'the Black O'Connell' due to his impressive oratory skills.
The Civil Rights Festival taking place this coming weekend from Thursday, November 28 to Sunday, December 1, in venues around Wexford town, will include the unveiling of a plaque, workshops, a schools concert, talks, soapbox event, music performances, children's events and art and photography exhibitions.
Helen Corish Wylde, a niece of the former Tanaiste and Labour Party leader Brendan Corish, will give a talk on the 1911 Wexford Lockout in the Creative Hub in Mallin Street at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
On the same evening, a play called 'The Trial of Thomas D'Arcy McGee before the Court of History', written by Anthony Russell, will be presented at Wexford Arts Centre at 8 p.m., in which the Irish rebel and Canadian patriot is called from the grave to answer the charge that he committed treason against the people of Ireland by accepting high office in a colonial parliament.
In a concert for secondary school students in the County Hall in Carricklawn at 1 p.m., on Friday, performances will be given of famous speeches, poetry, gospel and protest songs by local artists, taking a look at the life of Frederick Douglass and the struggles that came after him, including women's rights, African American civil rights, the Irish civil rights movement, Apartheid and the Traveller rights campaign. Booking is required for this event.
A Frederick Douglass commemorative plaque will be unveiled at Wexford Arts Centre on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by the Festival launch at 6.30 p.m. with a keynote speech by Pat Sheehan MLA who survived the Hunger Strike by Irish Republican prisoners in 1981 and is now involved internationally in peacemaking initiatives in Palestine and South Africa.
The evening will also include poetry, film and music performances by Rachel Grace, Luke Cosgrave and other artists.
On Saturday, St. Senan's Parish Choir from Enniscorthy will perform 'Songs to Lift the Spirit' in the Creative Hub at 12 p.m.
The Martin Luther King Soapbox Challenge will take place in the Creative Hub from 12.30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday with people invited along to have their say on a real soapbox created by the Wexford Men's Shed. Five minute slots are available.
Children will make posters at the Little Artists' Saturday Club in the Arts Centre from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m..
Cllr. Leonard Kelly and Raymond Shannon of Wexford Mental Health Warriors will host a Mental Health Workshop in Green Acres Gallery on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, exploring the barriers to people accessing help.
Bernard Mulvany and Sean O' Kelly will conduct a workshop on Access for All Ireland in Green Acres from 12.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m., looking at the struggles of people with disabilities.
Cllr. Tony Walsh and Keira Gill from A Lending Hand will host a workshop on Housing in Homelessness in Green Acres from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., while a workshop on Immigration and Asylum by Lucky Khambule and Bulelani Mfaco from the Movement of Asylum Seekers Ireland (MASI), with real life stories from the experience of Direct Provision, will be held in Greenacres from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
A panel discussion with a Q&A session on the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community of Wexford and Ireland will take place in the Creative Hub from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.
Women's Rights, with a focus on violence against women and reproductive justice, will be under discussion in the Creative hub on Saturday from 2 p.m to 4 p.m. with contributors including Pauline Ennis from Wexford Women's Refuge and also a member of ARC (Abortion Rights Collective).
The backdrop will be an art exhibition of visual images and audio recordings, marking the 16 Days of Action Opposing Violence Against Women 2019, created to develop an awareness of coercive control by women who have experienced such relationships.
On Saturday in Wexford Arts Centre from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. the newly-formed Wexford Traveller Development Group will host a talk and discussion on Traveller culture and the mental health issues and high suicide rate in their community, arising from discrimination and prejudice.
Also on Saturday, Studio-X presents Vision 2020 'The Secret Life of an Anarchist', billed as a 'narrative fusion performance' with Riff Raff Theatre and Aspirin Productions, starting at 8 p.m.
Photographer Padraig Grant will have an exhibition, 'Images from the Majority World' in his Rowe Street Gallery while an Exhibition of Cult and Banned Books, many of which voiced progressive views in backward times, will be held in Red Books in St. Peter's Square.
On Sunday, a concert from the 'Wexford Batenik' movement, highlighting the use of music, poetry and literature in the battle for civil rights, will be held at the Bandstand in St. Peter's Square, starting at 1 p.m.
On Sunday evening, at 7 p.m., a poetry Open mic will take place in the Creative Hub with MC Deirdre Wadding. People are invited to bring along a favourite poem or original work to read.
Many of the events are free but others including the launch concert, workshops, panel discussions and talks, require booking.
A Festival ticket costs €10 which allows patrons to book for all events that require booking.
Wexford's Frederick Douglass commemmorations began last year after Ed Barker, a native of Alabama in the US and his wife Deirdre, who live in Wexford, spoke to Elizabeth Whyte at Wexford Arts Centre about his connections with the building.