"Sankofa": The Black Arts Festival takes you there

by Minji Kim

Thirty-two artists. Ten events. Three days. Sponsored by the Kuumba Singers of Harvard, the 12th annual Black Arts Festival kicks off today and runs until Saturday, March 6.

The Black Arts Festival was founded by Phillip Atiba Goff ’99 as a way for the Kuumba Singers to move beyond song and choral music to connect to other forms of art. BAF, as it is fondly called by those involved, is a three-day mélange of artistic creativity by student artists, alumni, and even local and national artists.

From poetry readings to exhibits to swing and jazz performances, BAF virtually explores all possible various outlets for black creativity and spirituality. Through the celebration of artistic diversity, the festival also brings together black artists from different cultural backgrounds.

"It’s about being unified without uniformity. Even within [the Kuumba Singers] you have black Americans, and then you have the first generation Africans whose parents are from Nigeria and Ghana," said Andrea M. Tyler ’10, president of Kuumba Singers. "It's very interesting to find a way for all of those cultures to express themselves under one umbrella but allow each of them to thrive in their own place."

This year, the theme is "Sankofa," an African concept meaning "We look back into the past to see where we should go." While staying true to the black artistic history, artists involved in BAF focus on continually building on the rich tradition of their predecessors.

By exploring the full range of black culture, the Black Arts Festival strives to share with the Harvard community, for the 12th time, the black experience and the innovations of the art borne out of it.

The full calendar of events can be found here.