Windsor

Windsor man turning family history into art

Teajai Travis wants to turn the story of his ancestor, Richard Travis Sr. into multiple works of art, including a one-man play 'Born Enslaved.'

After years of research Teajai Travis is hoping to turn his family's history into a work of art

Teajai Travis is in Pennsylvania, near the black cemetery in the former black settlement of Liberia. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Earlier this year, Teajai Travis, along with a CBC Windsor reporter, went to Virginia, Pennsylvania and Buxton, Ont., to learn more about the Travis family.

Now he's trying to raise money to turn his family's history into pieces of art.

"A novel, a play, into a collection of poetry, a record and just keep on pushing that narrative," said Travis. "To let people know there was a very heroic story that took place."

He was able to trace back to 1745, when Richard Travis Sr. was born in Virginia. He self-liberated, bought some land in Pennsylvania, and started the first black settlement in Mercer County — a fugitive slave town, called Liberia.

"The intention of the project is to bring the information to the masses," he said.

First, Travis hopes to complete a one-man play 'Born Enslaved', then after raising enough money he hopes to round it out.

Teajai Travis holds re-creation shackles that sit in the Nat Turner display in Courtland, Va. Travis a Windsor, Ont. native, has been looking into his family's past for years. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

He'd like to "really bring to life the other characters, I suppose, the people that Richard Travis met along the way."

The art is being funded through grassroots efforts and a GoFundMe page, but Travis hopes once his play is complete he can apply for grants and funding.

He hopes more people can learn of his family's story and possibly inspire them.

"There's a lot of story out there that hasn't been uncovered yet. So maybe it will inspire people or encourage people to dig into their own family's story. On a personal level, I think my ancestor's story's pretty amazing."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stacey Janzer was born and raised in Essex County. Self-described Canadian treasure. She currently works as a video journalist at CBC Windsor. Email her at Stacey.Janzer@cbc.ca.

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