Tree: A Performance for Women of Ithaca (1981)

In the vein of other performances of that time, Lacy deployed the strategy of an artistically designed food event to explore cross-cultural communication in the small college town that housed Cornell University. Gathering a team of researchers and community organizers, she learned that there were historical divisions based on racism in Ithaca and that these were reflected in the “town-gown” divisions in general. Historically, however this was the region of the Seneca Falls Convention on women’s rights where Harriet Tubman gave her “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. It was also, like much of the South, Black women who worked in the food and cleaning industries for the University. Thus carrying on a tradition from the Anti-bellum South, African American women were the cooks and cleaners for young white women, a division still somewhat present in various forms on and off campus at the time of the performance. During a mixed race workshop on racial and ethnic heritages in the region, the current day member of Harriet Tubman’s family and an early suffragist were discovered, both older women still active in the community. In a potluck dinner, where college women students brought food to share with current and former older women who had worked/worked at the college, these two elders were honored. Over dinner, the 80 or so women reflected on this history and the roots of feminism in both black and white cultures.