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WAIL is a community grief ritual performance film conceived and organized by Candice 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 1877-1912 in Sugar Land, Texas. 

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. 

The film was shot in Sugar Land, TX at Bullhead Camp Cemetery, Old Imperial Farm Cemetery, and Chatham Fields. WAIL features choreography by Lindsay Gary and vocal scoring by Lisa E. Harris, and is performed by Stacey Allen, Saida Carter, Candice D’Meza, Lindsay Gary, and Aria Hope with contributions by community members who participated in an open call ancestralization workshop.

WAIL is a part of DiverseWorks’ Regenerative Land-Based Sounds and Spaces curatorial programming for 2021 – 2022 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.


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 Magazine, The Acentos ReviewThe Houston Chronicle, Houstonia, 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.

Her 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.


This project was made possible by a BOLD Ventures Grant, a Helen Gurley Brown Foundation initiative.

Additional support from the Texas Commission on the Arts – Arts Respond Project Grant.

On View:

October 15 – November 14, 2021






Thursday, October 21, 6:30 pm, Zoom
Panel Discussion
UNSHACKLING HISTORY: Convict Leasing Camps in Sugar Land, TX
Co-presented with the African American Library at the Gregory School
More info…


Additional Information:



Seeking volunteer participants to participate in the filming on October 2.


Candice D’Meza’s website

Convict Leasing and Labor Project

Fort Bend ISD: Sugar Land 95