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Black y Brown Arts Festival to celebrate diversity



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Maurisa Li-A-Ping is this year's featured artist at the Black y Brown Arts Festival. The festival takes place Saturday, May 19, at the Banneker Community Center in Bloomington.  Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

The inaugural Bloomington Black y Brown Arts Festival will take place from noon to 4 p.m. May 19 at the Banneker Community Center, located at 930 W. Seventh St. 

“Events highlighting the artistic achievements of Latino and African American artists have been hosted in the past, but the representation of black and Latino culture in the same venue makes this event unique,” Rafi Hasan, Safe and Civil City director and coordinator of the city's Black History Month Celebration, said. 

The event will feature visual and performing arts including storytelling, painting, ceramics and jewelry, Sean Starowitz, assistant director for the Arts in the City of Bloomington Economic & Sustainable Development Department, said.

The city is closing down Elm Street adjacent to the Banneker Center and will offer food trucks, street performances and tables for information about local, minority owned business, in addition to displays of art in the Banneker Center, Starowitz said. 

“We are trying to activate the Banneker Center which historically was the school for children of color,” Starowitz said. “The idea of having the Black and Brown Festival in that space and activating that community hub promotes a new type of future for the venue.” 

The event is hosted by three entities of the city of Bloomington: the Black History Month Planning Committee, the Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs and the Department of Economic and Sustainable Development.  

Starowitz said this event is the city’s way of showing a commitment to promoting diversity and equity in the culture of Bloomington. 

“This is a community for all, and this is a community that reports a variety of different aesthetics,” Starowitz said. 

Hasan said many people know a large percentage of Africans who were transported to this part of the world arrived in Brazil. 

“In terms of recognizing that geography, we wanted to make sure we pulled in Afro-Latino forms of art,” Hasan said.  “I’m happy to be working with the Commission on Hispanic and Latino Affairs.”

Hasan said he wants the celebration of African American life, history and culture to be something that extends beyond Black History Month in February. 

“The community has let me know that the celebration of African American life, culture and history is something that needs to be normalized,” Hasan said. “We need to see these things as a part of the Bloomington cultural fabric.”

Featured storyteller, Maurisa Li-A-Ping, recently graduated from IU with a master's degree from the School of Education. Li-A-Ping will perform two original poems for the Black y Brown Festival. One of them is titled “Words of Affirmation” and it's a praise poem to black girls and black women, Li-A-Ping said.

“This poem is to black women and girls to let you know you are loved, you are valuable, you are worthy just as you are and that someone sees you,” Li-A-Ping said.  

Li-A-Ping will also share the poem “Black Body Takes on the Role of Narrator.” 

“This poem is about the constant struggle for black life and black validity,” Li-A-Ping said. 

The poem is about police brutality, systems of inequity and educational barriers that don’t allow us to live our full and prosperous best lives, Li-A-Ping said.

In addition to the poems, Li-A-Ping will bring a painting to accompany the “Black Body Takes on the Role of Narrator” and a large printout of “Words of Affirmation.” Li-A-Ping will invite audience members to write affirming and uplifting messages they want to say to black girls and women. 

“I knew I wanted to be a part of the Black y Brown Arts Festival immediately because this is the first of its kind in Bloomington,” Li-A-Ping said.  “I think this is going to be really great for Bloomington to feature black and brown artists who are part of this community and have something to say.”

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