A diverse group of black artists will gather this weekend to celebrate black culture. The Burque Noir multimedia and entertainment event at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque on Saturday October 15, 2016, features poets, musicians, and visual and performance artists.
Ebony Isis Booth is one of the organizers of the show. She spoke with KUNM’s Elaine Baumgartel.
KUNM: What do you think the role of an artist is in our moment in time? Talk to me about how you see that role in New Mexico for you and some of the folks that you’ve been working with on this event.
Booth: One of the questions that I wanted to ask for the artists when talking to them – some of the questions they had for me, were like, what do you want me to do? Why do you want me to perform? And I basically answered by saying, you do whatever you want to. I just want you to consider the question, 'How does your blackness color your art? Or does it at all?'
I think there’s this idea that there’s this thing called ‘black art,’ like folk art, or these different categories that speak to a lot of institutional racism in our perception of art and fine arts and what that means. We’re celebrating black people, who make art. Not 'black art.' One of the memes that goes around on Facebook that I love so much is, 'They tried to bury us and didn’t know that we were seeds.' Just our existence, our mere living and drawing breath on this earth is a revolution. If you are creating art, that is your role in this time right now, you are relevant. It matters.
KUNM: How do you answer that question?
Booth: The same way. I feel like that. I feel like my passion and drive and sleepless nights and stress, every single extra waking moment that gets dedicated to producing this event, that is what’s relevant right now. Because it’s making a decision to make my protest a celebration and to smile and experience black joy in the face of so much despair and trauma that’s going on to people of color globally.
I might not be at every protest with a sign in my hand, but what I can do is that make sure that I’m… our hashtag is #berealblackforme which is like Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack, old school throwback, but still, that’s my revolution, is just living and existing in this black skin in this space.
KUNM: So can you give us a quick little primer on what we can expect to see this weekend?
Booth: Hakim Bellamy is going to be performing in a different way than what we are used to seeing him perform with a little bit more improvisational poetry creation, so he’ll be basically creating poems based off audience prompts on stage. Also, Vasillus is an amazing electronic artist and vocalist who’ll be performing. Joshua Mays is the lead singer of a punk band called Scarless, and they’re doing an acoustic punk set. A. Billi Free is hip-hop and soul and jazz and house.
There are so many different things that are happening, and we’re all black! And we’re all different! And it’s so dope! That’s what’s amazing about it. There is no monolithic definition for blackness and I think that is why this is important. Because we are just out here living our lives in all the various ways that we do that. And sometimes we just get this public stamp of 'African American,' 'blacks,” the 'inner city. Any time that comes up in campaign talk, immediately the conversation transfers to 'jail' and 'inner city.' And it’s like, no, that’s not who we are. And so Burque Noir is here to be evidence and speak truth to power through a celebration instead of a protest.