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Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity

Equity in the Arts

Earlier this month, The Lark and The New Black Fest held our fifth annual collaboration, aptly named The New Black Fest at The Lark 2018! We kicked off the week with a panel discussion on the theme of Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity, moderated by The New Black Fest Artistic Director Keith Josef Adkins, and featuring panelists Keith A. Beauchamp (filmmaker, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till), C.A. Johnson (playwright, All the Natalie Portmans), Dominique Morisseau (playwright, Skeleton Crew), and Quentin Walcott 
(Co-Executive Director of CONNECT). Check out their discussion in the video below, and read on for Keith's statement on how he chose this year's theme!

Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity

For the last three years, The Lark’s artistic staff and I sit down and talk about my thoughts for The New Black Fest. They literally ask, “What are you thinking about, Keith?” I normally have something articulate to say about the present socioeconomic circumstances of our world and how this or that should be said or done to reshape the face of our humanity, once and for all. However, this year I had nothing to say. I was speechless (which is rare for me). From continuous episodes of police brutality to fighting for complex images (and authentic gazes) on stage and screen (thank the Universe for Ain’t No Mo and Black Panther) to black women being left out of the conversation on women equity as well as attacks on those redefining gender and sexuality AND Trump, I felt overwhelmed. How do you land on one thing since there’s so much happening in the world all at once?

So, I had a plan: gather some really smart and progressive-thinking artists and people and ask them what they believed was urgent in the black community. On Saturday, January 13, 2018, twelve of us met at The Lark and purged, kicked around ideas, and asked some really hard questions about who we are as a people and what we should focus on and how those things could impact our art, our society, our lives. One thing was clear—no one wanted to discuss Trump/45. The general consensus… everyone was exhausted and, at times, furious at the thought of him.

What was clearer and more profound—we all believed black love, black space, and solidarity were three ideas that needed attention. Three things we could do something about. What does black love look like these days? Does it need protection? What is a safe space for black people? Do our institutions (civic, artistic, public) provide safety? Is every black person safe in black spaces? How does gender and sexuality impact our presence in our own spaces? How much do we need each other? Is solidarity a notion belonging to the 60s and 70s? Have we become so self-centric that village consciousness is on the way of becoming obsolete. This year’s festival is my attempt at posing those questions, perhaps answering and charging all of us to be responsible for our own safety.

-Keith Josef Adkins