Today, folks from all over the country are converging on Atlanta to kick off the National Black Arts Festival, a celebration of the culture of the African Diaspora, which has been in effect since 1988.

There’s lots to see and do: Music, theater, literary events, film, dance, the visual arts and much more, including a keynote by motivational speaker Les Brown, a Robert Townsend retrospective and a tribute to the great Nina Simone featuring artists such as Dianne Reeves, Joi, Lizz Wright and Nina’s daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly.  And there's much, much more.

What’s even better (I’m biased) is that the festival programmers carved out an hour to have a discussion about Black rock.  I’ll be leading the discussion along with Farai Chideya, URB Alt’s Boston Fielder, and "Medicine For Melancholy" director, Barry Jenkins.

Here’s the description of the session, which will follow immediately after a screening of Barry’s film:

The Black rock and the Indie Imperative

Over the past few years, Black alternative music—broadly called Black rock or Afro-punk—has been gaining popularity within our community.  This session explores how the cultural shift that is driving the acceptance of Black rock is also empowering and inspiring artists in other areas, particularly in film and literature.

Some questions I’m throwing out to the panel:

  • Alternative.  Indie.  Progressive.  What do any of these terms mean to you?
  • What were the “indie” issues each of you are trying to explore and why?
  • One of the big ideas presented in the film is this idea of the frontier.  What was it like for each of you to step out onto that frontier?  More importantly, how have you gotten others to follow?
  • What’s the responsibility of artists/creators to ensure all of this matters in the marketplace?
  • What’s the responsibility of audiences?

I’m sure I’ll come up with some more questions between now and Saturday.  But, what else do you think we should discuss?  All suggestions welcome.

In the meantime, sincere thanks to program director Leatrice Ellzy for believing in this topic and including it in the Festival's agenda.

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