Preview: Black Arts Festival 2011

March 2, 2011

Today, Thursday March 3rd, through Saturday March 5th , the Kuumba Singers and a wide range of other arts groups on campus will together present this year’s Black Arts Festival. The theme of the festival is “How it Feels to be Colored Me,” after the Zora Neale Hurston essay on when she felt “colored” by herself or others. Hannah Habte ‘13, one of the main organizers, hopes that the festival will get us thinking and talking about “how people become ‘colored,’ or categorized and oppressed, and how this has affected and is still affecting black art.” She means “black art” in the broadest sense, and hopes that the festival’s inclusion of performances ranging from ballet to wushu will expand people’s ideas of what “black art” encompasses. Says Habte, “we must recognize that because there is not one way to be black, there is not one way to produce black art.”

There will be events throughout the weekend, but if you’re just going to go to one thing, make it the Performance Arts Showcase in Lowell Lecture Hall at 8pm Friday. The showcase will feature artists from outside Harvard, including spoken word artists Gina Loring, Nate Marshall, and Meridith Nnoka and R&B singer Leah Smith. Many Harvard student groups will be performing, including Expressions Dance Company, the Kuumba Singers, PADAME and KeyChange. There will also be individual performances ranging from ballet to martial arts to more spoken word. Tickets are $7 at the Harvard Box Office, from a student working the festival, or at the door.

Beyond the showcase, tonight at 9pm the Queen’s Head Pub will host student and alumni vocalists for “Sing it, Sister!,” a celebration of black women in music. The event is free and non-ticketed, with free food and drinks.

Rachel Byrd ’13 is directing a production of Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuff,” along with Keith Mason’s response, “for black boys who have considered homicide when the streets were too much.” The plays go up in the Adams Pool Theater March 3rd through 5th at 7:30pm and March 5th at 2:30pm, but you’ll need to get on the waiting list through the Black Arts Festival website.

And for those interested in the festival beyond the performances, be sure to grab lunch in Emerson 210 at 12pm Saturday while you share in a discussion on black identity and its relation to black art with professors, students and outside scholars.

For more information on the Black Arts Festival and how you can help, look for more coverage from the Harvard Art Review and visit the festival website at

-Katie Banks ’12, Editor-in-Chief


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