Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Roger Ross Williams directs one of the most moving VR (Virtual Reality) experiences that transcends one into the era where The Green Book was a reality. The Green Book was first published in 1936 for the the African American traveler to guide them to safe havens of rest for food, lodging, petrol, etc. The soul purpose was to avoid potential discrimination that might lead to physical harm. In 1958, Ben and Virginia Ali opened a restaurant, Ben's Chili Bowl, that was added to the list in The Green Book.
Williams, in collaboration with three other lead artists, Felix Lajeunesse, Paul Raphael, and Ayesha Nadarajah, together they build a small replica of the diner with physical seating for about fifteen individuals for their New Frontier Installation Traveling While Black. Several people can sit at one time at either the diner booths or at the soda fountain bar stool for the experience. While seated, each individual puts on the VR head gear and immediately the experience begins as a first hand witness of the what it was like to be an African American traveling during this time in history in America.
Each individual viewer is taken on a twenty-minute journey with several African Americans who really traveled under strained circumstances. Some of these people are visitors to the restaurant, others are people who lived through segregation, some are famous but they all just come to sit and discuss their experience. These stories come to life and give the viewer insight to the challenges of their travels, restrictions, experiences and emotional trauma. Others share of the bond developed because of their travels and the community built.
Williams' Traveling While Black is an experience not to be missed. What to bring? Kleenex.