Next weekend, the Harvard community will have the chance to hear a diverse array of talented vocalists. Every year during Black History Month, the Kuumba Singers of Harvard College—a choir that celebrates black creativity and spirituality—host the Dr. Walter J. Leonard Black Arts Festival. While the focus of the celebration is Black heritage and art, those who are neither black nor artists need not despair as the weekend-long festival is intended for a diverse audience. “Black history is American history,” says Tsega Tamene ’15, the chair of the Black Arts Festival and a singer in Kuumba. “You don’t have to be black. You don’t have to come from that story or history to acknowledge and celebrate it. The week and festival are for all students.”
This year, the theme of the festival is “Voices,” and Kuumba has taken this to heart in designing their inclusive and celebratory schedule of events. “Black in the Day,” Kuumba’s main concert, will be the centerpiece of the festivities. The performance is a variety show that will feature everything from Kuumba’s signature choral style to hip-hop dances to live jazz tributes. In honor of Black History month, each performer or group will also dedicate their piece to an iconic figure in Black arts. “The goal of the performance is to showcase some of the voices that have existed through history that have made Black art what it is today,” Kuumba President Danitra J. Wansley ’13 says.
“Black in the Day” is just one of the many events scheduled for the Black Arts Festival, which also includes “What is Hip-Hop? Black Voice in Popular Media,” a panel discussion, and “Sing It, Sister!,” a showcase of Black women in the arts. “Sometimes I think Black history is made too serious a thing, and obviously there is a certain tone to a lot of Black history. But a lot of it is just about fun, creativity, and getting down, and that’s what this showcase is about,” Tamene says.