ABSCONDED is a hybrid street performance/public ritual that honors the life and legacy of ONA MARIA JUDGE STAINES through the creation of a living monument that moves through the streets of New York City.

Ona Judge was born into slavery before the American Revolution. She was a seamstress and Martha Washington’s body servant and “pet.” During Washington’s second term, on May 21, 1796 at age 22, Judge quietly absconded from Philadelphia on a ship to New Hampshire as the Washington’s ate dinner. With the help of Free Black and abolitionist communities, she evaded capture for the rest of her life.

In the work, DRAGONFLY (Robin LaVerne Wilson / Miss Justice Jester) embodies Judge in moving-monumental form as she walks the streets, interacting with historical figures and markers, as well as unscripted elements encountered in the procession. The work is a meditation on the perpetual state of fugitivity as freedom for the marooned members of the African Diaspora, offering a voice from the past to unbuild the mythologies surrounding the United States’ celebrated tyrants.

The project is deeply inspired by Never Caught, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar, as the foundational academic text for this work.


cover image from #UnpaidLaborDay 2020, by Miao Jiaxin