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Celebration of Black Arts Plans To Expand, Engage

By Cassandra Cummings, Crimson Staff Writer

As Black History Month ends, the sixth annual Black Arts Festival (BAF) promises to continue the celebration of black contributions to arts and entertainment well beyond the month of February.

The festival has consistently been a visible event in Harvard’s black community, but directors Amarachi U. Enwereuzor ’05 and Joy L. Fuller ’04 say they want to engage the entire University community and the greater Boston area in this year’s celebration.

Enwereuzor and Fuller say they conceived this year’s theme—“Rebirth and Rejuvenation”—as a response to acts of terrorism against the United States committed on Sept. 11, 2001.

“There’s a need for rebirth and a need to rejuvenate the black community in many ways,” she says.

She and Fuller say this need was overlooked in the black community. They say they hope the BAF will establish a more evolved black identity by rethinking past contributions to the black arts movement and focusing on current trends, celebrities and icons in the major entertainment industries.

The Sept. 11 attacks not only influenced the direction of the Festival but also made it more difficult to fund the three-day festival. In past years, the BAF depended on sponsorships from major corporations.

“Post 9/11, there wasn’t any money to be had in the corporate world,” Enwereuzor says.

This year the festival has had to rely on Harvard-affiliated sources such as the Harvard Foundation in addition to donations from private benefactors.

Performing Arts Chairs Bryan A. Smith ’05 and Shola B. Olorunnipa ’05, have rehearsed for months for “Renaissance Revisited:  Creative Expressions of Black Struggle.”

This event, held in Lowell Lecture Hall, features professional dancers, storytellers and musicians and amateur Harvard student performance groups like the Expressions Dance Company, the ’04 Steppers and the Kuumba Singers.

According to Smith, the showcase will “engage, enlighten, educate and most of all entertain the Harvard community.”

Organizers of the BAF say they also hope that the performances will motivate audiences to take advantage of the workshops offered in storytelling, swing dancing and spoken word.

Geared towards children, the storytelling workshop seeks to include the greater Boston area, with children involved in Phillips Brooks House Association progams invited to participate.

The Swing Dance workshop, featuring the black choreography group Sugar Shack, aims to rejuvenate a dance originated and once highly popular in the black community.

Enwereuzor also emphasizes the importance of the Queer Film Festival, which will be part of the BAF.

“Boston has one of the largest gay populations, and it doesn’t make sense to ignore those people and their contributions for so long,” Enwereuzor says. “[The film festival] helps to give new meaning to the black artistic tradition.”

Citing past negligence in shying away from black homosexuals in the arts, she says that the BAF hopes to increase awareness about homosexuality in relation to filmmaking.

In past years, the film festival has showcased black independent films and featured films—some of which went on to become mainstream successes.

In addition to professional independent films, the festival, held at the Harvard Film Archive in the Carpenter Center on Sunday, will culminate with a student film competition. The BAF received hundreds of submissions from students of all universities and will give three student awards.

—Staff writer Cassandra Cummings can be reached at cummings@fas.harvard.edu

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