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Common Ground: Passage to Strength and Change Symposium

April 30, 2022 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm

April 29 and 30, 2022, Historic Sotterley will hold two days of on-site programing, entitled, Common Ground:Passage to Strength and Change. This symposium will feature a roundtable of some of Sotterley’s diverse descendants, a living history performance, a study of genealogy to discover unknown relatives and ancestors using DNA, and the Executive Vice-President of Content from Maryland Public Television telling his own journey using previews of yet to be released films, Becoming Frederick Douglas, and Harriet Tubman Visions of Freedom. This program is made possible thanks to grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Maryland Humanities, and Maryland Heritage Areas Authority.  

Free registration is now open, there is limited seating! Register Here

If you are unable to make the event in-person, we are offering a virtual option. You can register to attend virtually Here. You must click “Register to All Dates Below”, WebinarJam will not allow you to register to individual sessions.

There is now a lunch option available for purchase HERE! You must purchase your lunch in advance to receive it the day of the event. You are welcome to bring a bagged lunch, if you’d prefer. 


Friday, April 29th 10 am – 12 pm

Descendant Roundtable Discussion

Join Sotterley’s diverse and distinguished group of Descendants as they discuss Sotterley’s past as it relates to their lives and the personal impact it has on them, while sharing and discussing their fears, hopes, dreams, and plans for Sotterley and our community in the future.  Audience Q and A to follow.  


Friday, April 29th 1 pm – 3 pm

Living History Performance

Meet Ida Bell Wells-Barnett brought to life by actor/interpreter, Shemika Renée. 

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862-March 25, 1931) was an American investigative journalist, educator, and early leader in the Civil Rights movement. She was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  

Shemika Renée is a costumer, award nominated and winning actor, and First Qtr winner of Enginuity Film Festival 2017. She received a WATCH award in 2013 and Clifton Film Celebration award for makeup artist. She is the former Head Costumer and Makeup Adjunct Professor at the College of Southern Maryland.  After serving as an officer in the US Air Force for five years, she decided to pursue her dreams of stage and screen. She has performed throughout the DMV to include roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Miricle Worker, A Raisin in the Sun, Doubt, A Parable, Fences, The Color Purple, Seven Guitars, August: Osage County, and Ragtime. She has done background acting work on House of Cards, The Blacklist, and VEEP. Shemika also starred in Sotterley’s live production of The Choice-Risking Your Life for Freedom from 2012-2015, and then the film version. 

In addition to being the Outreach Specialist and historical interpreter at the National Colonial Farm in Accokeek, Maryland, she also travels to schools throughout Maryland bringing historical figures to life. In 2019 she wrote and starred in her own one-woman show, Ms. Story’s Living History. In 2020 she portrayed Harriet Tubman at The Capitol Building in honor of Harriet Tubman, sponsored by the then Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris.  


Saturday, April 30th 10 am – 12 pm

Cornerstorn of Discovery: Uncovering Amazing Family History Using DNA with Jerome Spears

From Africa, to Australia, to the UK, and all parts in between, DNA analysis can play a critical role in what discoveries can be possible. Using a wide variety of sources and methods, Sotterley descendant and Genealogist, Mr. Jerome Spears will go completely around the fan-chart within one Southern Maryland-based family tree to reveal the rainbow of ethnicities and connections that can be found. Discussion, resource sharing, and Q and A will follow the presentation. Genealogy based door prizes will be drawn for registered in-person attendees!  

Jerome Spears is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. He accelerated his genealogical research efforts back in 2009. He attended Morgan State University and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Hawaii in Geography that has served him well in assisting his approach of meticulously positioning his ancestors within the historical context of place to uncover and reveal remarkable and amazing family history discoveries. In 2015 he documented the history of his eight linear ancestral families, rising out from slavery to freedom and beyond, in a national award-winning manuscript, I’ve Got Your Back. He has presented at national level conferences, including the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society (AAHGS), RootsTech Connect and the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree. In 2020 he used DNA methods to find and then successfully contact his own family’s “Kunta Kinte” from Nigeria. As a GU272, Susquehanna Plantation, and Historic Sotterley Plantation descendant, his regional focus continues to be nested in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, with compelling lings to North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, Alabama, the U. K., Ireland, Australia and the African Countries of Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Angola, and the Congo. Spears is a retired 30-year U.S. Army veteran, who over that same period experienced some levels of success as a musician and record producer, as well as a professional boxing commentator. He is a member of Howard County’s Central Maryland Chapter of AAHGS and now adds Genealogist, family historian, lecturer, and truth-seeker to his titles as he continues to discover and speak to relatives, past and present.

Saturday, April 30th 1 pm – 3 pm 

Journeys with Travis Mitchell

Travis Mitchell, the Senior Vice-President, and Chief Content Officer for Maryland Public Television will share his personal and professional journeys. Segments of the films, Becoming Fredrick Douglas, and Harriet Tubman Visions of Freedom. that are set to premiere this fall on PBS will be featured throughout his presentation.  

Travis Mitchell joined Maryland Public Television in early 2020 to oversee all content created, acquired, and aired on the statewide public television network’s TV channels and online properties. Mr. Mitchell brings more than two decades of media experience to his role at MPT, having served most recently as chief content officer for University of North Carolina Television (UNC-TV). During his time with the public television station, he provided editorial vision and garnered support for UNC-TV’s educational services and programming content on its four TV channels and in its online properties. Prior to his role as chief content officer, he was a member of the UNC-TV Board of Trustees. Mr. Mitchell also served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Atlanta-based Black Family Channel, where he drove the channel’s distribution growth from availability in two cities to more than 3,600 cities, 48 states, and 31 million homes while managing affiliate sales, advertising, programming, and launching sports and news divisions. He earned an undergraduate degree in broadcast journalism from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in entrepreneurship and education from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education in Philadelphia. He completed further executive education study at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Mitchell has served on the foundation board of Morgan State University and as a member of PBS Children’s Media and Education Working Group and the National Cable Television Association Policy Issues Committee. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in 2021 from Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina in recognition of his more than 25 years of service to the community as a media and non-profit executive. 


April 30, 2022
10:00 am - 3:00 pm


Historic Sotterley


Historic Sotterley
44300 Sotterley Lane
Hollywood, MD 20636 United States
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