A Performative Critique of Democracy


BLACKOUT ARTS COLLECTIVE (BAC): What’s up everybody? Welcome to Blackout. I want to tell you a little about Blackout Arts Collective. We’re a group of artists, educators, activists and other types of professionals who are dedicated to empowering communities of color through the arts, education, and activism. In 1997, a group of us came together and asked, “How can we use the space that is created by arts, activism and education to build a movement?” Over the last few years, we’ve started building that movement. We started having showcases in New York City venues. Later we grew and we started doing shows in Boston. Now we have a chapter in Boston and Philadelphia and one starting up in New Haven, and we’re working to build a national network of artists who are committed to social justice. Last year we launched our national tour called “Lyrics on Lockdown.” This tour sought to raise awareness about the prison industrial complex and to work toward the goal of building that national network. There are many of us all over the country and world doing this work. We need to come together. That’s what we’re here for tonight. Tonight we want to start the discussion of how we can use the arts to build a social justice movement, and you’re gonna be involved with it. Hopefully later on you’ll contact us and be involved in more ways.

We’re gonna have an amazing event, basically a poetry battle, a poetry slam. All the work you’re gonna hear tonight ties into themes from The Miner’s Canary. The artists have been working hard to bring this stuff to you so you have to really let them know how excited you are, how much energy you have. Alright, alright. So we’re gonna have this poetry competition. Poetry competitions have been going on since ancient times in various parts of Africa and Asia. My father actually came to this country winning a poetry competition in Trinidad, where they have calypso competitions. This goes way back. We’re just continuing that tradition with the new spoken word movement and trying to figure out how we can tie this into a broader movement for social justice.

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