“More than Friends” with the artist Natasha Quitano in Juneteenth Voices of Freedom 2020. Image by Will Jones

Kennedy Heights Arts Center February 25-May 27


For the third year, Juneteenth Cincinnati and Kennedy Heights Arts Center are teaming up to present Voices of Freedom, a visual and performing arts series celebrating Black history from a contemporary perspective, from February 25 to May 27.

The series includes an art exhibition and three performances, all taking place at Kennedy Heights Arts Center’s Lindner Annex.

“We are so excited to collaborate with Juneteenth Cincinnati and amazing artists and performers from the region on a month-long celebration of Black arts and expression,” said Ellen Muse, Kennedy Heights Arts Center executive director.

The centerpiece of the project is a multi-disciplinary exhibition of new works by 10 local Black artists titled “When Liberation Comes.” The exhibition is curated by Jeni Jenkins, who was a featured artist in the 2022 Voices of Freedom exhibit.

For Jenkins, the show is an invitation to envision. “When liberation comes, what does it look like?” asked Jenkins. “What shape does it take? What’s at stake? What is lost, what is gained? While each artist’s experiences, perceptions, and visions are unique, their work contributes to the larger collective Black diasporic voice.” 

KHAC Executive Director Ellen Muse and Juneteenth President Lydia Morgan. Image by Will Jones.

Artists include Nytaya Babbitt, Brent Billingsley, James Brown, Cierra Fogle, Brandon Hawkins, Javarri Lewis, Josie Love Roebuck, Rashad Manuel Jr., Adoria Maxberry and Annie Ruth.

Voices of Freedom will also include a series of three performances in March, featuring dance, spoken word and music exploring the quest for freedom throughout the African diaspora.

The “When Liberation Comes” opening reception is Saturday, February 25, 6 to 8 p.m. View the art exhibition, with live music and refreshments.

Dayton Contemporary Dance Theatre will perform “Black History Mosaic” on Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. Dayton Contemporary Dance Company is the 10th largest modern contemporary dance company in the nation rooted in the African American experience. This show pieces together work from DCDC’s repertory that intersects our place in Black history past, present and future, and opens the door to dancing the African diaspora.

Nuyori-Cincy Poetry Café is scheduled for Saturday, March 11 at 7:30 p.m. Taking inspiration from the Nuyorican Poets Café in New York City, this immersive event will feature spoken word performances by 10 diverse poets interspersed with live music by HeartSounds in an artful setting curated by Regal Rhythms Poetry, LLC.

Dayton Contemporary Dance Theatre to perform Black History Mosaic on March 4. Image provided by the company.

“The Quest for Freedom throughout the Diaspora” is Saturday, March 18 at 7:30 p.m. This event will feature dance, music and food representing Brazil, Cuba and Jamaica, ending with a carnival-inspired experience with audience participation. Performers are Cincy Brazil Samba Dancers, Afrakan Artist Alliance, Mokkojombie and Brazilian Capoeira Dancers, curated by Andre Souza and Luiza Zinser.

Performances will take place at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center Lindner Annex, 6620 Montgomery Road. All events are free, but tickets are required. Space is limited. Cash bar. Reserve tickets online at kennedyarts.org or call 513-631-4278.

“When Liberation Comes” will remain on view in the KHAC Lindner Gallery through May 27. Gallery hours are Tuesday and Thursday from 12 noon to 5 p.m., and by appointment.

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 1,500 participants to Daniel Drake Park. Over the years, the annual festival now held in Eden Park has continued to reflect its origins in a racially integrated community, offering diverse, family-centered, free activities such as traditional storytelling, music, dance, food, cultural activities, a sweet potato pie bake-off and more. More information at www.juneteenthcincinnati.org.

The mission of Kennedy Heights Arts Center is to enhance the life of surrounding neighborhoods through arts and cultural experiences that embrace diversity, foster creativity and build community. More information at www.kennedyarts.org.

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