7 things to do in Milwaukee this weekend (besides going to the Wisconsin State Fair), including the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival

The Morning Glory Art Fair returns to the Deer District outside Fiserv Forum Aug. 13-14.

1. Milwaukee Black Theater Festival  

The third annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, the biggest ever, takes place on five stages around the city Aug. 10 through Aug. 14. Programming includes the world premiere of “Milwaukee Voices of Gun Violence” by the Bronzeville Arts Ensemble at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at Wilson Theater in Vogel Hall at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Admission is free to nearly all events in the festival, which is presented by Black Arts MKE. Info (including a full schedule of events): blackartsmke.org/festival. 

RELATED:What you need to know about the mostly free Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, Aug. 10-14

The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival is staging events in five venues around the city Aug. 10-14.

2. Center Street Daze Festival

The 25th Center Street Daze Festival brings eight (yes, eight) eclectic stages of live music, a classic car show, carnival games and “art cart” races to the Riverwest neighborhood from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 13. The doings take place along Center Street from Humboldt Boulevard to Holton Street. Admission is free. Info: Center Street Daze Festival Facebook page.  

3. Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival 

The Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival returns to Lakeshore State Park Aug. 13.

The Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival, showcasing dance, folk music, martial arts, dragon boat races and other Chinese cultural traditions, returns to town at Lakeshore State Park Aug. 13. At least 40 teams have signed up to take part in the races, which start at 8 a.m. Info: milwaukeedragonboatfest.org.   

4. Morning Glory Art Fair 

The Morning Glory Art Fair brings more than 130 juried artists and their creations to the Deer District in front of Fiserv Forum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13-14. The 47th annual art fair boasts artwork in 15 categories, from sculpture and jewelry to digital art. Admission is free. Info: morninggloryartfair.com

5. Bronzeville Week’s final days 

Bronzeville Week activities continue through Aug. 13 in Milwaukee’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Among the weekend’s highlights is the Bronzeville ArtWalk and Afro Caribbean Cultural Celebration, with live performances, art demonstrations, traditional cuisine and more from noon to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13 on North King Drive from Garfield to Meinecke avenues. Info: Bronzeville Week Facebook Page. 

RELATED:What to know about Milwaukee’s Bronzeville Week, from entertainment and art to culture and commerce

6. Luxembourg Fest 

Luxembourgish band Zero Point Five is performing at Luxembourg Fest Aug. 13 in Community Park in Belgium in Ozaukee County.

A diverse array of programming is on tap for this year’s Luxembourg Fest from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 13 in Community Park in Belgium in Ozaukee County. The festival, part of four days of activities sponsored by the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, starts with a Main Street Parade at 11 a.m., followed by a performance by popular Luxembourgish band Zero Point Five before and after what’s billed as “the World’s Largest Treipen-Eating Contest” (treipen is a Luxembourgish blood sausage) at 1 p.m. Info: lacs.lu/luxembourg-fest-week/luxembourg-fest.  

7. Waukesha Rotary BluesFest 

Duke Robillard is one of the headliners at this year's Waukesha Rotary BluesFest.

Naga-Waukee Park in Delafield is again home to the Waukesha Rotary BluesFest, bringing 12 blues acts Aug. 12-13. Headliners include the Duke Robillard Band and Sue Foley. Tickets at the gate are $30 for a single day and $55 for a two-day pass. Info: waukeshabluesfest.com.  

Contact Chris Foran at chris.foran@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cforan12.

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The ‘post-pop’ artist stars are rushing to collect

Written by Natalie Kainz, CNN

In Dennis Osadebe’s “Nigerian Dream,” two figures clad in fuscia and mustard yellow stare out of the painting. Their facial features are obscured by a traditional tribal mask and a futuristic space helmet. The piece parodies the 1930 Grant Wood painting “American Gothic,” but exchanges a rural farmhouse for a modern home, and a pitchfork for an electric fan — a staple for beating the heat in Nigeria.

The 31-year-old Lagos-based artist wants to challenge assumptions about African art, visualizing the continent’s future by reaching into the past.

“I always want to use my art to educate people about Nigeria by making them understand that we’re already future-thinking,” said Osadebe, whose work fits into the movement known as Afrofuturist art combining African heritage with technology. “We are … sophisticated and complicated. [We] can participate in art at any level.”

“Nigerian Dream” is an example of “Neo African” art, a term Osadebe said he coined to describe work that rebels against stereotypes around African art. His style has captivated audiences around the world, and even won the approval of tennis champion Naomi Osaka.

Osadebe poses in front of "Knowledge Seeker" (2022), part of his series of self-portraits.

Osadebe poses in front of “Knowledge Seeker” (2022), part of his series of self-portraits. Credit: Yusuf “Buch” Sanni

Using surrealism and “post-pop” to transcend expectations

Instead of focusing on Nigeria’s shortcomings, Osadebe said, including inconsistent access to electricity and poor health care, his work celebrates the future by showcasing Africa’s potential.

Osadebe describes his art as “postmodern surrealism,” and “post-pop.” His everyday scenes, anonymous faces, and imagery of common household objects are designed to help people visualize their lives in his art.

“When people look at this piece, I want them to reflect and ask themselves: ‘do I see myself in this piece and why?'” said Osadebe. “I want to convey the feeling of us as human beings … having shared experiences [by celebrating] the most mundane, simple things.”

Research is key to his artistic process. He starts by identifying features of existing images that excite him. He has borrowed horses from Renaissance paintings, David Hockney’s reverse perspective, and René Magritte’s playful obstruction of faces. “It’s similar to collage in that sense,” he added.
In "Dismantle" (2021), a figure takes apart an electric fan — a common object in Nigerian homes.

In “Dismantle” (2021), a figure takes apart an electric fan — a common object in Nigerian homes. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

Next, Osadebe starts to build a digital image around that feature. When the digital rendering is complete, he prints it on canvas and paints it using acrylic. For him, combining digital and traditional mediums gives him creative freedom.

Capturing a global audience

Osadebe said art is about developing a visual language that transcends geographic boundaries — a “universal language that everybody can connect to.” His work has captivated viewers in galleries all over the world, including Berlin, New York, Tokyo, Miami, London and Hong Kong.

He said learning about people’s perspectives on his art fuels his confidence to create. During his first exhibition in Lagos — 2017’s “Remember the Future,” inspired by the Nigerian space program — he was nervous about his work. “I was like, what have I done? These are all cartoon characters,” recalled Osadebe.

That anxiety went away when he had a discussion with the first person who walked into the gallery. “He [said] ‘as a Nigerian, this is something I felt like I needed to see — this was a perspective, a way of representation, that made me feel and see my potential.'” Osadebe said it was validating to hear that his art started a dialogue that he himself had struggled to put into words.

"Exercise Indoors" (2020) is part of a series of paintings Osadebe made of figures playing tennis indoors during the pandemic. He was inspired by his father, a tennis fan, trying to exercise at home.

“Exercise Indoors” (2020) is part of a series of paintings Osadebe made of figures playing tennis indoors during the pandemic. He was inspired by his father, a tennis fan, trying to exercise at home. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

More validation came from Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka. The four-time Grand Slam champion purchased several of Osadebe’s pieces after coming across them in 2020. Her management team reached out to Osadebe, he said, and told him Osaka was drawn to a painting of a woman sitting on a horse in a living room.

“She was like ‘this evokes the energy I feel when I get into a room,'” he said. While he never spoke to Osaka directly, he speculates that she liked the piece’s message about controlling one’s own narrative.

Last year, he painted a cover for a Racquet Magazine feature about Osaka at her request. It features a figure standing in a living room clutching tennis equipment.

Turning heritage into inspiration

Osadebe’s references to his Nigerian heritage infuse his art with nostalgia. The tribal mask that often appears in his paintings was inspired by the official emblem of the Second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture — a replica of the royal ivory mask of Benin.

Osadebe grew up in Festac Town, the federal housing estate in Lagos that was designed in 1977 to house the festival’s participants. Despite living in a place associated with the arts, he said there wasn’t enough representation of young and relatable artists in Nigeria when he was growing up. “I never knew that [a career in art] was a possibility,” he added.

He is the first artist in his family. His father’s career as an entrepreneur inspired Osadebe to study business management at Queen Mary University of London. He completed a master’s degree in innovation and entrepreneurship, before returning to Lagos to work for a boutique finance firm. He started painting as a way to vent his frustrations — then realized he could turn his passion into a career.

"Composure" (2022) was part of Osadebe's most recent exhibition "MODERN MAGIC" at König London. It's part of a series of self-portraits that Osadebe said he painted in response to a growth in demand for his work, and the expectations that came with it.

“Composure” (2022) was part of Osadebe’s most recent exhibition “MODERN MAGIC” at König London. It’s part of a series of self-portraits that Osadebe said he painted in response to a growth in demand for his work, and the expectations that came with it. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

His personal journey as an artist was part of the inspiration behind his recent series of self-portraits. In “Composure” (2022), furniture, plants, and paper swirl through the air in a living room. A figure stands motionlessly before the objects — calm amid chaos.

“I really wanted to reflect myself as an artist today [and] speak on my findings, my struggles, my frustrations,” said Osadebe. Under immense pressure, there is an expectation to retain composure, he added.

For Osadebe, “optimism is critical.” It’s the phrase he lives by when addressing serious themes in his art — like Nigeria’s long history of military rule from the 1960s into the 1990s in “General (Shoots a fake gun),” or police brutality in the video game he designed called “Playful Rebellion.” He said his art uses “optimism as a source of protest.”
Osadebe painted "General (shoots a fake gun)" in 2019. He said the tiny Nigerian flag emerging from the barrel of the gun reflects military leaders' lack of progress on taking the country to new heights. "For the leaders, the priority has never been to empower the people," he said, adding that the book beneath the figure's foot symbolizes education taking the last priority.

Osadebe painted “General (shoots a fake gun)” in 2019. He said the tiny Nigerian flag emerging from the barrel of the gun reflects military leaders’ lack of progress on taking the country to new heights. “For the leaders, the priority has never been to empower the people,” he said, adding that the book beneath the figure’s foot symbolizes education taking the last priority. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

That mentality fuels his continued experimentation with new mediums. He has already made 3D sculptures and interactive graphic interfaces. While he can’t give away any spoilers just yet, he said his next series will celebrate Nigerian identity.

“With optimism, there’s hope,” he explained. “It’s what drives me to want to create, [to] try out new mediums, because it makes me feel like there’s more possibilities.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Today In The Culture, August 10, 2022: Festival au Cinéma | Taste Of Greektown | Music Institute Of Chicago Season

Music Institute Artist-in-Residence Tammy McCann/Photo: Mary Rafferty

ART

“Questioning the Place of Black Art In A White Man’s Collection”

“Isaac Julien’s installation at the Barnes Foundation highlights the museum’s African sculptures even as it questions the ethics of their acquisition,” writes Arthur Lubow at the New York Times. Barnes “started acquiring African sculpture in 1922, the year he set up the foundation, because it had inspired Picasso, Modigliani and many other artists in France he supported. ‘When the Foundation opens, Negro art will have a place among the great art manifestations of all times,’ he wrote to his Parisian dealer in 1923…With a commission by the Barnes for the foundation’s centenary, the Black English artist Isaac Julien created a five-screen black-and-white film installation, ‘Once Again …(Statues Never Die),’ that looks at the place of African art in the Barnes and other Western museums… Julien chided Barnes for limiting his support of Black art to the work of African civilizations and not collecting the output of his own African American contemporaries… Julien’s installation puts a spotlight on the Barnes’s estimable trove of African art—and on the long shadows that it casts.”

DESIGN

Renewable Energy Coming In Three Years To Airports, Harold Washington Library

Mayor Lightfoot aims to move city-run buildings to one-hundred-percent renewable power, the Tribune reports. “The city of Chicago has reached a deal worth up to $422 million to partially power some of its biggest buildings with solar energy starting in 2025… As part of a contract with retail electricity supplier Constellation, the city will buy solar energy that will partially power Chicago’s airports, the Harold Washington Library Center and the Jardine Water Purification Plant.” Adds the Sun-Times: “Governor Pritzker, whose Climate and Equitable Jobs Act laid the groundwork… called the power supply contract that will make clean energy the standard for buildings a ‘model’ for the nation… City-owned buildings that consume the most energy [will draw] a healthy chunk of their power from a new solar farm under construction in Sangamon and Morgan counties.” (The city just awarded over $200 million in airport maintenance and security contracts with ABM Aviation and Lincoln Security Services, reports Crain’s.)

DINING & DRINKING

Chicago Staffing Challenges Persist For Restaurants

Avondale’s Eden is the example Eater Chicago cites as challenges persist in staffing restaurants around the city: “Delays aren’t anything unusual for restaurant openings… For Eden, staffing posed a serious challenge. The labor climate has rapidly changed and [the co-owner] says jobs that were once $15-$16 per hour now require wages of $20 or more per hour. Right now they staff about sixteen… But for dinner, they want to add ten to twelve more.”

Taste Of Greektown Returns

Greektown Chicago’s popular Taste of Greektown festival returns for its thirty-second year. It’s the city’s largest celebration of Hellenic cuisine and culture, and runs Friday, August 26-Sunday, August 28 along Halsted Street from Adams to Van Buren, highlighting the neighborhood’s Greek restaurants with live music and entertainment, Greek dancing and unique shopping and retail. The neighborhood’s Greek restaurants include 9 Muses Bar & Grill (315 South Halsted), Artopolis Bakery, Cafe and Agora (306 South Halsted), Athena Restaurant (212 South Halsted), Mr. Greek Gyros (234 South Halsted) and Spectrum Bar & Grill (233 South Halsted). An optional $7 donation is suggested. More here.

FILM & TELEVISION

Shorts Festival At Haven Theatre

Haven Chicago has announced its Festival au Cinéma, “the company’s new platform for visionary and innovative filmmakers and media artists staking their claim in the future of digital storytelling.” The three-day-three-night event features over twenty short films plus events including conversations with the filmmakers, an opening night cocktail mixer, a “boozy brunch” featuring an iconic movie screening and a closing awards party. The weekend ends with the Made in Chicago Gala, Haven’s second annual fundraising event on Sunday, August 28, which includes a sneak peek at Haven’s inaugural film project. Festival au Cinéma, August 26–28 at Haven’s resident home The Den Theatre. Schedule and more here.

LIT

“Comics Attract People Who Have Anxiety,” Says Nick Drnaso

“Nick Drnaso finds himself in a disconcerting position. His hobby has become his job. He is still struggling to get used to a world in which it makes more financial sense for him to sit at his drawing board from the moment he wakes up until 2am,” writes Sam Leith in a Guardian profile. “He feels, he admits when he speaks to me from his home studio in Chicago, like an ‘impostor.’ Until 2016 he was working behind a pressing machine in a factory that made tin badges. ‘You would kind of assemble the pieces. It just felt like cartooning… problem-solving and repetitive motion and working delicately with your hands. So I loved it.’ … Discovering the Midwestern cartoonist John Porcellino’s work–’It pushes minimalism pretty much as far as it can go while still telling a coherent story’–was ‘a huge revelation.’ Drnaso learned the lessons of that minimalism in his debut collection, ‘Beverly,’ and refined it in ‘Sabrina,’ the breakthrough 2018 work that established him–and that has put him in the relatively rare position of earning a full-time living making literary comics.”

New Graywolf Press Publisher Looking For Talent In New Places

The New York Times reports that Carmen Giménez is now “the executive director and publisher of Graywolf Press, one of the nation’s most venerable independent, nonprofit publishers,” which is located in Minneapolis. “Her goal, she said, will be to cultivate the next generation of public intellectuals, whoever and wherever they might be, and to widen the press’s audience… Writers ‘might not be coming from the same traditional academic backgrounds.’ … The search for new talent will encompass ‘any number of places where people are talking or thinking, or being creative or having a voice,’ including TikTok, where Giménez believes there is probably a public intellectual waiting to break out.”

The Books That Made Sara Paretsky Want To Be A Writer

“By six or so I was already writing little stories, but I never imagined myself as a published writer. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties, reading Raymond Chandler at the same time that my life was being turned around by second wave feminism, that I started trying to write for publication,” Sara Paretsky tells the Guardian. “I was tired of reading books in which women used their bodies to try to get good boys to do bad things. I wanted to create a female detective who was a person, someone who could solve problems without using her body, and someone who could have a sex life that didn’t define her moral character. My series of novels featuring detective V.I. Warshawski came out of that wish.”

MUSIC

Lollapalooza Gets Restrictions On Other Grant Park Fests

“The deal to keep Lollapalooza in Chicago for at least the next decade includes a complete revamp of how festival producers will pay the Park District, tighter restrictions that keep competing music festivals out of Grant Park and no provisions for investment in the grounds except a $100,000 tennis court renovation,” reports the Trib. A draft agreement obtained by the paper states that “CPD and [Lollapalooza owner] C3 shall collaborate as necessary to avoid similar activity (multi-day music festivals) as characterized by type of entertainment, number of days and number of stages in Grant Park. In no case shall CPD, without the written consent of C3, permit a music festival in Grant Park to allow more than 20,000 daily attendees or to run more than two days.” Writes the Trib, “That appears to mean another C3-run festival, the two-day Sueños Music Festival, would be allowed to go forward.”

Motown’s Lamont Dozier Was Eighty-One

Critic Carrie Rickey posts: “In the 1960s, the three standards of hipness were Mary Quant, Yardley of London, and Holland-Dozier-Holland. Lamont Dozier passed away at 81, and his life is every bit as great as his many Motown hits.” The New York Times obituary: for “the prolific songwriter and producer who was crucial to the success of Motown Records as one-third of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team.” “In collaboration with the brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Mr. Dozier wrote songs for dozens of musical acts, but the trio worked most often with Martha and the Vandellas (‘Heat Wave,’ ‘Jimmy Mack’), the Four Tops (‘Bernadette,’ ‘I Can’t Help Myself’) and especially the Supremes (‘You Can’t Hurry Love,’ ‘Baby Love’).” From 1963 to 1972, “the Holland-Dozier-Holland team was responsible for more than eighty singles that hit the Top forty of the pop or R&B charts, including fifteen songs that reached No. 1. ‘It was as if we were playing the lottery and winning every time,’ Mr. Dozier wrote in his autobiography, ‘How Sweet It Is.’”

Music Institute Of Chicago Announces Nichols Concert Hall Season

The Music Institute of Chicago’s season at Nichols Concert Hall in downtown Evanston features artists performing classical, jazz and gospel. “The diversity of this series connects with every part of our community. What every concert has in common is the excellence of the artists,” says Music Institute president and CEO Mark George in a release. This year the Music Institute celebrates Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) through its “One Composer, One Community” program, which focuses on the life and work of a single, underrepresented BIPOC composer. Considered the single most significant creative figure in twentieth-century Brazilian art music, Villa-Lobos’ unique compositional style synthesized contemporary European techniques with elements of national music. Villa-Lobos penned more than 2,000 orchestral, chamber, instrumental and vocal works. Three of this season’s Nichols Concert Hall programs feature work by Villa-Lobos. Also featured: Chicago jazz favorite and Music Institute artist-in-residence Tammy McCann in “Yes, Mahalia!,” on Saturday, October 29, which offers homage to gospel pioneer and Chicago legend Mahalia Jackson, paired with the sonic power of big-band jazz. More here.

STAGE

Trib’s Chris Jones Mulls A Chicago Theater “Crisis Of Leadership”

At the end of last week, Chris Jones wrote at the Chicago Tribune on the cascade of crises in the stage community, starting with Victory Gardens, “a forty-eight-year-old bedrock of the city’s famous off-Loop scene… without an artistic director, an executive director, an announced season or any kind of functionality… Its staff, to the extent there still is a staff, is angry and unhappy… I drove past the building and saw a red, do-not-cross tape over the doors. I almost threw up through my car window… This is not happening in isolation… The House Theatre of Chicago, long one of the city’s most exciting and vibrant companies, went out of business with hurt feelings on all sides, not least from a newly hired artistic director who had not been given any chance to make her mark, just as a former artistic director had been hounded out of the door, just as other talents elsewhere have been hounded out of the city. The Royal George Theatre… was allowed to disappear for condos, ruining the chance to create an entertainment district in concert with Steppenwolf… Stage 773… became a bar… TimeLine Theatre parted company with one of its artistic associates [after] women came forward alleging inappropriate behavior on the part of an individual who had, prior to this scandal, been involved in making allegations against theater companies rather than being on the receiving end of them.”

ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.

Groupon Eliminating 500 Jobs, Mostly In Illinois

Groupon begins a wave of layoffs, reports the Sun-Times. About fifteen percent of the workforce will be let go. A spokesman “could not specify how many will be at the e-commerce company’s Chicago base, 600 West Chicago, where it already is making office space available on a sublease. With remote work common… Illinois-based positions could include workers living in another state… ‘Our cost structure and our performance are not aligned. In order to position Groupon to successfully execute our turnaround plan, we have to lower our cost structure,’ CEO Kedar Deshpande said in a message to employees. The message was posted as the daily deals provider announced a widening loss during its second quarter amid a precipitous loss of revenue.” Adds the Trib, “Once the face of Chicago’s tech startup scene, Groupon has been in decline for much of the past decade… Departing employees were notified Monday, with some asked to stay on for a period of time to assist with the transition, according to the letter. Where possible, they will be given the option to keep their laptops, avail themselves of outplacement services and submit their information to a Groupon talent list to be posted on LinkedIn.”

Police Chief: “Really Focused” On Rooftops On Bud Billiken Parade

“In light of the massacre at Highland Park’s Independence Day parade, Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown announced that city officials are ‘really focused’ on rooftops along the route of Saturday’s Bud Billiken Parade through the South Side,” reports the Sun-Times. “Brown said city officials have been involved in planning the parade since March and have since ramped up discussions about ‘various aspects of security,’ including the police resources dedicated to the parade. The police department is specifically interested in rooftops and ‘other high-ground areas in relation to that lesson learned from Highland Park.’”

NASCAR Gets Great Deal

“Documents obtained by Crain’s through Freedom of Information Act requests shed light on the pacts between City Hall and organizers of NASCAR and Lollapalooza. Some of the details are eye-popping… New details show NASCAR will have access to the site for longer than previously stated and the race could be extended beyond the three years announced by Lightfoot in July.” The contract, gotten under that FOIA request says that “NASCAR will pay the Chicago Park District $550,000 in 2023 and 2024 for exclusive use of much of Grant Park and $605,000 in 2025.” The event “will include two races each weekend and a fan festival that is likely to include concerts. The contract grants NASCAR access to the Petrillo Band Shell on Wednesday through Sunday of race week. Unlike the park district’s deal with Lollapalooza organizers, C3 Presents, the city is not getting a cut of any sponsorships related to the NASCAR event or a broadcast deal… The NASCAR contract doesn’t specify what repairs NASCAR will have to pay for at the conclusion of the event, but the company will lay down a $50,000 security deposit and officials from both parties will tour the site before and after the event with a third-party contractor… The company will be provided a ‘staging window’ of twenty-one days prior and ten days after the event to two areas of the event map marked as the ‘Pit Road Paddock,’” part of a VIP offering.

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Largest Milwaukee Black Theater Festival returns this week

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – This week, Black Arts MKE presents the biggest Milwaukee Black Theater Festival ever, hosting events at venues across the city Aug. 10-14.

The week-long celebration of Black arts and culture features full-production and staged reading plays, an R&B and Gospel fundraiser concert, spoken word and dance performances, and talk-back and panel discussions. All events are free and open to the public, except for the fundraiser concert, which is a ticketed event. A full festival schedule can be found on the digital program or official website.

This year’s theme is The Black Family: Generations Speak!, presented by generations of Black artists, includes events for the entire family, acknowledges community challenges, and encourages everyone to come together now to celebrate Black theater, healing, and unity.

“For the first time, the festival will be held across multiple venues in an effort to expose more of the city to rich cross-disciplinary artistic and cultural activity produced by Milwaukee-based Black artists,” says Cory Nettles, Black Arts MKE Board Chair. “We’re proud to produce Milwaukee Black Theater Festival to share more of our stories and put a spotlight on emerging young Black playwrights and professional theater organizations, including Bronzeville Arts Ensemble and Lights! Camera! Soul!.” Expanded venues include Marcus Performing Arts Center, St. Ann Center Indaba Community Band Shell, Milwaukee Youth Arts Center, and The Table Vocational Center.

Milwaukee Black Theater Festival events include:

  • Two theatrical world premieres produced by Bronzeville Arts Ensemble: Milwaukee Voices of Gun Violence by Sheri Williams Pannell and Khloe’s Beautiful Blues staged reading by La’Ketta Caldwell
  • Theatrical production of Hidden Heroes by Shà Cage – The Black Women of NASA produced by First Stage and directed by Samantha Montgomery
  • Youth & Family Night kicks off the festival with preview performances from several collaborating BIPOC youth theater and dance organizations including First Stage, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Next Act Theatre, and Signature Dance Company
  • This Just In staged reading by Malaina Moore, an emerging young MKE-based Black playwright
  • Family Reunion Concert Fundraiser produced by Antoine Reynolds and featuring Milwaukee’s most talented R&B and Gospel artists and musicians
  • Milwaukee Black Theater Community, Let’s Talk! Including a History of Milwaukee Black Theater, moderated panel discussion, and an Adolphus Ward Scholarship presentation produced by Lights! Camera! Soul!’s Dimonte Henning
  • Healing Through the Arts Showcase performances presented by several artists and survivors as portrayed in Milwaukee Voices of Gun Violence

“We’re honoring the Black Family during the third year of the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival which provides an opportunity to tell stories which entertain us while sharing our history, exploring our challenges, uniting our generations, and celebrating our beauty!,” adds Sheri Williams Pannell, co-founder Milwaukee Black Theatre Festival and Bronzeville Arts Ensemble producing artistic director.“

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Kevin Okoth: Serious Battle and Slay

… neo-colonialism, for capitalism, for racism, for economic sanctions, for ugly … . A video circulates showing a ‘Black [American] brother’ being murdered by white … binds the Jidadan animals to Black Americans. Is it a solidarity based … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

In Chicago, after the segregation years, segregation continues

Every morning, Richard Hunt goes to his workshop, located in a former electrical plant on the North Side of Chicago. A makeshift heater stuggles to warm the space. At 86 and with a white beard, the African-American artist works on his latest creation, a sculpture that will be placed in the garden of Barack Obama’s presidential library. The former president is considered a child of the city even if he was not born in it. Standing beside a model of the work – a bird flying out of a book – the artist explained his project, as his slender hands traced its shape. “Reading books allows us to understand, to soar from a place where we might have stayed if we hadn’t read the book, and to explore new possibilities,” he said. Surrounded by a thousand sculptures and as many pieces of metal, Mr. Hunt embodies a myth, that the American dream is also meant for Black Chicagoans.

His parents came from rural Georgia and Illinois, and he lived with them in Chicago’s segregated South Side after World War 2. One of his teachers, like his parents, noticed his interest in the arts. Then he took Saturday classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the city’s superb art museum. Upon graduating from high school in 1953, Mr. Hunt applied for a graduate fellowship at the Art Institute of Chicago and was eventually sent to Florence, Italy, to study. Back in Chicago, he opened a studio, taught and sculpted. “I realized then that I was making more money by selling my work,” Mr. Hunt said. In 1971, the Museum of Modern Art in New York gave him an exhibition. “MoMA had been criticized for not showing enough African-American art,” he recalled. This event offered him official recognition.

Chicago would like to be the city of emancipation and glory for African Americans. It was here, in fact, that trumpeter Louis Armstrong (1901-1971) triumphed. He left New Orleans when Storyville, the hotbed of jazz, closed down after the US entered the war in 1917. Chicago is also the city of basketball player Michael Jordan, who, although he was born in Brooklyn, made the Bulls a legend from 1984 to 1998. It is also the city where Barack Obama was a community organizer and met his future wife, Michelle, who attended the same church as Mr. Hunt’s parents.

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Reverse migration

But Chicago is not limited to this beautiful story. It is also the often traumatic history of the South Side, where African-Americans are concentrated. It’s a community whose family units are often fractured, that suffers from segregation, miserable schools, industry-polluted soil and gang warfare that causes nearly 900 deaths per year. Blacks are leaving this city en masse, according to Matt Rosenberg, the author of a vitriolic essay on his city (What Next, Chicago? Notes of a Pissed-Off Native Son). He said, “The Black population has shrunk by a third since 1980, as has the White population. If the overall population is stable, it’s because Latinos have replaced them. We’re witnessing a great reverse migration of Blacks.”

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