By Lydia Morgan
In honor of Black History Month, Juneteenth Cincinnati is presenting a visual and performing arts series at Kennedy Heights Arts Center from February 26 to March 26, 2022.
Voices of Freedom explores the promise and reality of “freedom” as experienced by those whose lives and destinies were touched by emancipation. This project is made possible by American Rescue Plan funds from the City of Cincinnati, administered through ArtsWave.
The centerpiece of the project is an exhibition of new works by 10 artists and 10 poets, curated by Michael Coppage (visual art) and MoPoetry Phillips (poetry). Diverse, regional and national artists were commissioned to create new works in response to the theme of Voices of Freedom. Local poets were commissioned to write poems inspired by each piece of art and displayed side-by-side with the artworks in the gallery.
“The exhibition is meant to highlight the voices of Black artists working around the country, both emerging and established, whose individual practices address the human condition in regard to Black narratives and experiences. Each individual work is personal but should be seen as part of a larger collective diasporic voice,” remarked Coppage. “Through their lens we hope to offer compelling stories, unearth truths and define what the current state of liberation is, should be and could be.”
Artists include Desmond Beach, Mark Anthony Brown Jr., Kierston Ghaznavi, Jeni Jenkins, Fatima Laster, Dave McClinton, Komikka Patton, Blake Pierre, Vitus Shell, and Michael Thompson. Poets include: MoPoetry Phillips, Jacqueline “Gifted” Johnson-Wilkinson, Kimberly “Duwaup” Bolden, SoL, Dawn “The Psalmist” Crooks, Victoria Cipriani, Queens Jurnee, Manual Iris, ASlate, and Golden Goddess.
The public is invited to attend a free, opening reception for Voices of Freedom on Saturday, February 26, from 6 to 8 p.m. in KHAC’s Lindner Annex, 6620 Montgomery Road. The poets will perform their poems at 7 p.m.
Voices of Freedom will also include a series of three performances in March, all taking place at Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s Lindner Annex. Guests are encouraged to come early to view the Voices of Freedom exhibit in the gallery prior to the show.
Playing for Freedom — Saturday, March 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Celebrate jazz and its influences with performances by Jazz Renaissance and Deondra Means. The evening will start with a South African Gumboot musical theatre presentation by acclaimed local actor Means, followed by a lively performance by Jazz Renaissance, an 8-piece group performing modern jazz in many styles, including bop, swing and Latin.
Dancing for Freedom — Saturday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Experience two unique forms of movement performed by local groups: praise dance by the Heavenly Doves and step dance by Cincinnati Metro Dance team. Then, audience members will learn some steps themselves,
Singing for Freedom — Saturday, March 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Pianist, vocalist and composer Counterfeit Madison (Sharon Udoh of Columbus) will take the stage, presenting a tribute to legendary musician Nina Simone. Udoh’s funky yet classical piano-playing and soul and gospel-tinged voice make her a powerful performer.
All shows are free admission, but tickets are required, and seating is limited. Reserve tickets online at kennedyarts.org or call 513-631-4278. Face masks and proof of COVID vaccination or negative COVID test with matching photo ID required for entry.
Juneteenth, an annual holiday on June 19th commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, has been celebrated by African Americans since the late 1800s. Cincinnati’s Juneteenth tradition began in 1988 as a neighborhood festival in Kennedy Heights, attracting some, 1500 participants to Daniel Drake Park. More information at www.juneteenthcincinnati.org.
More information at www.kennedyarts.org.