African-American Arts Festival Brings Poetry, Fiction, Memoir, Theatrical Storytelling, Feb. 26 - March 1
February 9, 2018
Contact: Office of Government and Public Affairs
In recognition of Black History Month, Spotlight UB, co-producing with the University of Baltimore's Diversity and Culture Center and the Rosenberg Center for Student Involvement, will host the 10th annual African-American Arts Festival, Feb. 26 through March 1. This year's events will feature creative writing and theatrical storytelling, all created by local and UB artists. The entire festival is free and open to the public.
Over the past decade, the festival has offered a diverse mix of music, poetry, literature, theatrical performance, political conversations, and dance for the campus and midtown community. Unless otherwise indicated, the following events will take place in the Wright Theater in UB's Student Center, 21 W. Mt. Royal Ave.:
Monday, Feb. 26 and Wednesday, Feb. 28, 1:30 p.m.:
Poet-playwright Sharea Harris will conduct two creative writing workshops, Identity as Resistance, that consider writing as a person of color. M.F.A. graduate Harris teaches writing and composition at UB. She is the author of a collection of poems, Dictionary. Harris defines herself as: "1. juju-word woman 2. wild creative womb bearer 3. fire-water bringer 4. cloud card star reader 5. writer (5a. poet 5b. playwright) 6. artist (6a. book 6b. visual) 7. performer 8. adjunct instructor 9. consultant 10. MFA Creative Writing and Publishing Arts 11. All the magic a moment could hold, then let out with a BANG. 12. Southern Black Girl, get into it."
Monday, Feb. 26, 4 p.m.:
M.F.A. candidate Wan’Shae Blount hosts a series of readings by UB poets of color who will read their own work and work that has influenced them. Writers Sierra Bamiro, Blount, Clynthia Burton Graham, LaShunda Colvin, Brion Gill, and Victoria Songonuga will read and perform a range of memoir, poetry, and fiction.
Graham is a passionate writer who explores the extraordinary moments in the lives of everyday people of color to create fictional stories. She is in her final year in the University of Baltimore’s M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Publishing Arts. Her publications include poems in Catalyst magazine and Thought Press, short stories in Pen in Hand Journal, Skelter Journal, and UBlock Zine, honorable mention in the 2016 Hurston/Wright Foundation College Student Awards Contest and second place in the 2006 Maryland Writers Association's short story contest. She has also been a copyeditor for Obvious Magazine and the Welter Journal.
UB alumna Songonuga is a writer, blogger, model and poet, from Lagos, Nigeria. Her passion for mental health and life in the African diaspora drove her to create her own personal blog. She writes freely about issues that affect her culturally, spiritually, mentally and academically through short stories and poetry. Her work has been published in Brittle Paper, Parallel Magazine, Skelter, and Unbloc.
Blount is a current M.F.A. student who enjoys writing, cooking, event planning, and rock climbing.
Gill is an M.F.A. candidate and a local slam poet performer known as Lady Brion.
Tuesday, February 27, 2 p.m.:
Students from Prof. Kimberley Lynne's Oral Interpretation of African-American Theatrical Literature will perform a staged reading of August Wilson's play Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Wilson’s series of 10 plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, depicts the African-American experience in each decade of the 20th century and won Wilson two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. Set in a 1911 Pittsburgh boardinghouse, Joe Turner's Come and Gone is the second in the cycle and won the New York Drama Critic's Circle Award in 1982. Coming out of Reconstruction and following the Great Migration to the north, Wilson's characters strive to carve an identity after the trauma of slavery. Professors Lynne and Diedre L. Badejo will discuss the work after the free reading. Lynne is a playwright, serves as UB's Arts and Theater Manager, and teaches in the Yale Gordon School of Arts and Sciences. Badejo serves as the program director of UB Interdisciplinary Studies; her areas of academic specialty include African oral and written literatures, West African history and politics, gender studies and educational development.
Thursday, March 1, noon, in the Bogomolny Room in the UB Student Center:
The Center for Student Involvement and the Diversity and Culture Center will host a Women of Color Leadership Panel as part of the Women's Initiative for Leadership Development (WILD) program. The program will focus on career paths and professional development. Panelists include: Prof. Badejo, Prof. Cassandra Jones Havard from the UB School of Law; Prof. Tiffaney S. Parkman from the College of Public Affairs, and Prof. Jan L. Williams from the Merrick School of Business.
Thursday, March 1, 7 p.m.:
The African-American Arts Festival's final event will be a staged reading of poet-playwright Denise Kumani Gantt's powerful utterance with motion, meditations/from the ash. Inspired by Ntozake Shange's choreopoem, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, Gantt's poem/play explores the beauty and challenge of being a single mother of color in Baltimore. Gantt's plays and performance pieces include meditations/from the ash, winner of the Artscape 1997 Best Play Contest and voted Best New Play by the Baltimore Alternative; Three Stories to the Ground, written with Gabriel Shanks and winner of the Theatre Project Outstanding Vision In Theatre Award; anatomy/lessons, selected to be part of Penumbra Theater's Cornerstone Project; Communion, written with actress Vanessa Thomas for Washington, D.C.'s Horizons Theater; Testament, a play inspired by Antigone performed by the Village of Arts and Humanities in 2006; and the work-in-progress, The Gift, which received a staged reading as part of ACT's Central Theatre Lab in June 2011. An excerpt of the play was read as part of the Classical Theatre of Harlem's Playwrights Playground in July 2012. In 2003, her collection of poetry, conjuring the dead, was awarded the Maryland Emerging Writers Award by poet Afaa Michael Weaver. She holds an M.F.A. in Theatre Performance from Towson University. The performance will be directed by Natayla Brusilovsky and will feature local and UB actors.
These events, with the exception of the WILD panel in the Bogomolny Room, will take place at the Wright Theater. Reduced rate parking is available on event nights at the UB Maryland Avenue Garage, located on Maryland Avenue between Biddle and Chase streets, or at the Fitzgerald Garage on Oliver Street. A voucher will be provided at the box office, and the UB shuttle is available to transport patrons between the venue and the garage.
The University of Baltimore is a member of the University System of Maryland and comprises the College of Public Affairs, the Merrick School of Business, the UB School of Law and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences.