"Trust yourselves. Trust your vision. Trust your creativity. Trust your imagination."
-Dr. Angela Davis
Dating back to the days of the Harlem Renaissance along with the B.A.M. (Black Arts Movement) era, the arts have been the expression route of Black people.
Through dance, music, theater, and poetry, the creative and performance arts have given us a voice – our own language, if you will, of understanding the past, tackling the present and recognizing the change that needs to form in the future.
The arts have sparked and continue to imprint a cultural existence that open doors and pave waves of expression. From our troubled youth to their inspiring and aspiring hearts, the arts have provided a form of articulation that is universally understood.
The works of Amiri Baraka, Fela Kuti, Nikki Giovanni, just to name the very least, brought forth power in the voice and an identity to the Black thinker. We were more than just black faces and indentured servants. We were creators and people of faith who had overcome trials in which stimulated the brain and each muscle to create. To present visions in the form of words; to speak through the movement of body politics and to soar with a realistic imagination to exceed beyond what was thought to only be of the Black man and woman.
We were more than just flesh. Inventors. Painters. Musicians. Dancers. Actors. Directors. We were. And we remain.
Monica Halsip, Executive Director and Creator of the Little Black Pearl, an institution for the arts combining education and entrepreneurship to challenge the minds of youth, has embarked on the continued mission set before us years ago, and that is to push forth the importance of art education and expression and to raise the intellect of our Black community through social and artistic awareness.
Her heart lies with the youth and their progression. In September, The Little Black Pearl (LBP) opened its after-school program, Options Laboratory, a creative space for youth to gain academic enlightenment combined with artistic release.
Just before the holidays, LBP expanded its programming on Friday December, 16, when the community arts organization launched their quarterly series featuring live poetry, arts, and music performances entitled, Black:Unplugged.
This intimate series is a unique blend of arts and community spirit which embodies the mission of LBP. The inaugural event featured Dr. Angela Davis, educator, and human rights activist, and Grammy Award Winning recording artist Dianne Reeves. Hosted by acclaimed singer and songwriter Nona Hendryx, the engaging series of performances were produced by musician Terri Lyne Carrington.
Haslip shares, “The series will happen over the next year and we’ll have four different shows and the shows will be held here. In addition to bringing entertainment, our plan is to make sure our members really get an extra dose of Little Black Pearl, so they’ll have an experience.”
The event highlighted works of students that are apart of the Charter Options Laboratory school. With the theme of youth violence, an act that has claimed many of our youth, the students recited heartfelt vivid scenes through the art of spoken word, live performance from an aspiring singer, band and rappers, and glass art work created in remembrance of those we lost throughout the year.
“What is so special about Little Black Pearl and Option Laboratory is that it focuses on art. It puts the arts at the center and it seems to me that the aesthetic in the art, I’d call it aesthetic education provides us with the kind of vision that we can not get from other fields. It allows the imagination to soar and if we are to continue along the road to freedom, we need imagination,” said Dr, Davis.
The students had every reason to be proud of their accomplishments.
The importance of such an event like Black: unplugged, is that it connects our spirits and liberates the mind. To see the children showcase their talents and conquer their insecurities and fears was inspiring and a definite congratulatory moment. The words of Dr. Angela Davis combined with the talents of the students were empowering and a true call-to-action.
Programs have stretched across the world vying for these opportunities to remain and to become more prominent and available in all communities. It is needed. It is helpful. It is an acquired tool that can change a great deal of lives. It is powerful.
Support the LBP movement today! Visit www.littleblackpearl.org to learn more.
You won’t be disappointed.
Photo Credit: John Broughton
Tags: Amiri Baraka, Angela Davis, black arts movement, Dianne Reeves, fela kuti, harlem renaissance, Little Black Pearl, Monica Haslip, nikki giovanni, Nona Hendryx, Tia Fuller, toi talese, toya cross