Candice D’Meza: Wail A Film Honoring The Sugar Land 95



Online Panel Discussion
Unshackling History: Convict Leasing Camps in Sugar Land, TX
Thursday, October 21, 6:30 pm
Co-presented with the African American Library at the Gregory School
(Houston, TX, October 8, 2021)– DiverseWorks is pleased to announce the October 15th premiere of WAIL by artist Candice D’Meza. WAIL is a community grief ritual performance film conceived by D’Meza to honor the 95 individuals whose unmarked remains were unearthed in 2018 and who labored and died on a state-sanctioned convict leasing camp between 1897-1912 in Sugar Land, Texas.

WAIL: Online Film Premiere
Friday, October 15, 6:30 pm.

Streaming through November 14th, 2021, on the DiverseWorks website.

Panel Discussion
Thursday, October 21, 6:30 pm, Zoom

Unshackling History: Convict Leasing Camps in Sugar Land, TX
with Candice D’Meza, artist; Samuel Collins, III, historian; Dr. Theresa Jach, Professor of History, HCC Northwest College, Katy Campus; and Dr. Naomi Reed, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX.
Co-presented with the African American Library at the Gregory School
Online registration required

Project Details
Directed by Nate Edwards in collaboration with D’Meza, WAIL is informed by the funerary traditions of Blacks in the Antebellum South, the Dagara of Burkina Faso, the Yoruba of Nigeria, and Haitian Vodou. The film explores questions around what it looks like to memorialize the lives lost to the convict leasing program, how they should be honored, and by whom.

Speaking about the project, D’Meza says:I continue to grapple with the grief from buried stories, land loss, racial violence. I’m always asking myself what other ways can I dialogue more vibrantly with one-sided stories? How can I interact more deeply with painful histories?Indigenous African and African Diasporic traditions offer many tools to help those of us in the West to cross time barriers, to position ourselves as active agents in the past, present, and future. [In WAIL] I employed rituals from African traditions that have connection to the Texas “Sugar Bowl” area (Fort Bend, Brazoria, Matagorda, Wharton Counties) and used them to engage the history of sugar plantations that flourished under the brutally inhumane convict leasing system. The system that in many ways, came to perfect chattel slavery of African peoples, on the stolen lands of the massacred and forcefully displaced Karankawa natives. This film is an homage—a visual offering—to that history. To the land. To our ancestors. To ourselves. To restorative justice and reparations. To a more humane future for us all.
WAIL is a part of DiverseWorks’ Regenerative Land-Based Sounds and Spaces curatorial programming for 2021-22 that explores concepts of recovering ancestral connections to land and illuminating conversations about creating change through ancestral work, as well as the need for community healing and memorialization around sites of conflict. D’Meza plans to further build on the work over the next year with an in-person public presentation in 2022.The film was shot in Sugar Land, TX at Bullhead Camp Cemetery, Old Imperial Farm Cemetery, and Chatham Fields. WAIL features choreography by Lindsay Gray and vocal scoring by Lisa E. Harris, and is performed by Stacey Allen, Saida Carter, Candice D’Meza, Lindsay Gray, and Aria Hope with contributions by community members who participated in an open call ancestralization workshop.

About the Artist
Candice D’Meza
 is a mother of two, actor, writer, filmmaker, and multidisciplinary artist whose writing and acting work has been featured in American Theatre MagazineThe Acentos ReviewThe Houston ChronicleHoustonia, and The Houston Press.As an actor, Candice is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Union and has acted with The Catastrophic Theatre, The Ensemble Theatre, Rec Room, and The Alley Theatre. She has been called a “Houston Theater Actor To Watch” and awarded four awards, including the 2018 Best Utility Player Award by The Houston Press.Her writing– using forms of memoir, prose, and playwriting–focuses on topics of grief and joy, restorative justice, abolition, and liberation as viewed through the Black Imagination–the mixing of science fiction, African and African Diasporic folklore, and Afrofuturism. Her one-woman show, FATHERLAND, combines Haitian Vodou spirituality and personal memoir with experimental film and ritual theater into a multimedia layered performance that is a deeply vulnerable exploration into the grief that comes from disconnection: disconnection from family, from culture, and from homelands.D’Meza’s ongoing work, 30 WAYS TO GET FREE, is a series of micro-plays that explore, via sci-fi, African folklore, Afrofuturism, magical surrealism, and speculative fiction, the unlimited ways that Black people across the African Diaspora may triumphantly enter into a free world of their own imagining. To date, selected pieces have been published in The Acentos Review, produced as commissioned plays by the Latinx Playwrights Circle in New York, and produced as short films by The Catastrophic Theatre.

About DiverseWorks
DiverseWorks commissions, produces, and presents new and daring art in all its forms through innovative collaborations that honor each artist’s vision without restraint. Founded by artists in 1982, DiverseWorks is nationally known for its groundbreaking programming; as a resource for the innovative and meaningful engagement of communities; and as a force that has shaped contemporary thought and practice in Houston and the nation. DiverseWorks is committed to equitable compensation for artists and is W.A.G.E. Certified. More information at
This project is made possible by a BOLD Ventures grant, a Helen Gurley Brown Foundation initiative, and an Arts Respond Grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.
DiverseWorks is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas Commission on the Arts, the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, the Brown Foundation, Inc., the Cullen Trust for the Performing Arts, Houston Endowment, the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation,  the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the Wortham Foundation.
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