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jt roane.

cohort. 2022-2023

project. Plot

location. Desha, VA

Plot is an experimental short film that uses visual and sonic palimpsest to draw out the myriad meanings and uses of historic rural Black landscapes in the expression of intra and interregional familial and collective identities. Inspired by the loss of the physical structure of my home church, St. Johns Baptist in Desha, Virginia, during a 2015 tornado, by the ongoing “return” pilgrimages to this space my family traces to mourn and to affirm fundamental forms of collectivity, and on research into the worldmaking efforts of these congregations after emancipation by exploring the ways they built an alternative regional developmental schema though small scale collective cultivation of land and waterscapes,  the film draws together dance and as well as scenes of collective mourning to artistically render the entanglement of Black religious experience, secular sociality, and interregional  Black placemaking. The use of layering of visuals and hopefully the score, asks the viewer to be immersed, to linger in the past and the present of these sites, to be haunted by them. 

This work is deeply personal. I dedicate this work to the surviving children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends of my father’s mother Elsie Roane. The film reflects the ways that returns to her, even in death, continue to underwrite our connections in and through place, family, and community. 


This was a deeply collaborative project. It reflects the combined efforts of Shameka and Chardé Holmes who orchestrated the gathering which inspires the primary visual narrative of the film, camera operator and cinematography consultant, Huewayne Watson who shot that footage, the dancer and choreographer Johnnie Cruise Mercer who was engaged in his own organic place-based and place-responsive dance work, the brilliant musical composition of James Dargan who responded so elegantly to the visuals, his independent work with the vocalist, Brianna Robinson who delivers such a moving and elegant recording, and especially my close work with my editor, Alexis Young.


JT Roane_edited.jpg

J.T. Roane is Assistant Professor of Africana Studies and Geography and Andrew W. Mellon Chair in Global Racial Justice in the Institute for the Study of Global Racial Justice at Rutgers University. He received his Ph.D. in history from Columbia University and he is a 2008 graduate of the Carter G. Woodson Institute at the University of Virginia. His book Dark Agoras: Insurgent Black Social Life and the Politics of Place was published in 2023 with New York University Press. Roane's short experimental film Plot received support from Princeton's Crossroads Fellowship. He also currently serves as a member of Just Harvest—Tidewater, an Indigenous and Black led organization building toward food sovereignty and justice in Virginia’s historical plantation region through political and practical education.

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