Letters from the Dead: Commemorative Walk (Kingston, Jamaica)

Letters from the Dead: the commemorative walk took place in Kingston Jamaica in 2009, when 300 people walked across the borders of Kingston’s warring communities, carrying and wearing images of their dead, knitting the city together in an act of public mourning for the thousands killed in the wars of the last forty years. The performance culminated with the laying out of images of the dead and the ritual reading of letters to and from victims of community wars outside the Mayor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Kingston.

Before the march took place, arts based workshops involved participants to explore the ways that people remember and forget violence.  Folks discussed the different circumstances that result in the shooting, injury and death of diverse victims and the enormous pain and waste that it has caused.  For several, forgetting is an attempt to cope with the pain of loss, but it is also to avoid the desire for revenge that was triggered by remembering, raising the important question of how to link memory with reconciliation as one constructive response to violence.

“For those of us there that afternoon, “Letters from the Dead” was a cathartic moment that deliberately moved across hard lines of political and ideological affiliation. In a growing climate of individualization, amidst deepening social and economic exclusion, people took to the streets for a few hours in June to show that collective strategies and responses were not only necessary but still possible, knitting together the city space in public mourning, commemorating those whose lives have been shattered by violence as belonging to all and as deserving of support across all hardened and deadly divisions.” The Starbroek News, Georgetown, Guyana. September 2009

A network of organizations including the Peace Management Initiative (PMI), the Sistren Theatre Collective and affiliated groups, worked on this performance along with community members, artists, students and scholars from the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Kingston, Jamaica and the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University.