Now more than ever, people are beginning to realize the importance of highlighting Black talent. At this month’s RTP180, we took this one step further by highlighting the importance of their struggles, their businesses, how they got to where they are and who they are. We brought in five phenomenal speakers for RTP180: Expressions of Color so they could do just that: express what it means to be Black.
Kicking us off was Dasan Ahanu, Rothwell Mellon program director of Creative Futures at Carolina Performing Arts, to talk about The Art of Imagination. As Dasan says, “When I think about Black imagination, I think about resilience.” He taught us that we need to do more than just appreciate Black art – we should consider the artists going through the process. He encouraged us to support our Black local spaces and artists and help them grow. How can we do that? By being open to inspiration, curious exploration, imagining, creating, sharing, and of course, repeating the process. Check out the video to learn more!
Then, Zweli Williams, owner of Zwelis Inc. (the only known Zimbabwean restaurant in the US) talked about surviving Covid-19 as a small business. Coming from a family of small businesses, her grandfather Timothy Dube encouraged her to “always work for your name.” She gave us five strategies that small business owners can use to come out the other side of Covid-19. Check out the video to get the details on each strategy and how you can make it work for your business.
Our third speaker was Angela Hollowell who is the director of photography for Ang H. Studio. Angela talked to us about the impact of photography in the civil rights movements happening today. It’s not just the artistic photos that are important, it’s the person capturing the stories. Angela said, “As a photographer, I feel like we’re the ultimate participant observers. We’re ingrained in the culture we capture.” She encouraged us to be critical of the media that we look at and analyze if it’s “representative of the diverse population.” Watch the recap to learn more about how the people behind the lens are just as important as the project itself.
Next up, Dr. Nehemiah Mabry, president of STEMedia came to talk about “a special kind of normal.” He started by showing us his family and saying that his two daughters “have purpose and the possibility to achieve anything they want to.” He showed us stats about how Black adults are underrepresented in STEM-related fields, with about only 6% in engineering. He also mentioned the importance of media representation, like what his daughter sees and feels when she watches Doc McStuffins. So what was the special kind of “normal” he was talking about? “It’s normal for a Black person to make extraordinary contributions using their intelligence. We must highlight and recognize Black intelligence until it’s seen as the normal it really is.” Learn more in the video recap here.
Last but not least, Pierce Freelon the founder of Blackspace, came to talk about being a dad. He made a connection between parenting and technology, which as a millennial parent he has used often. On creating his music, he said, “Hip hop is all about technology and reinventing the wheel. The tech was there as I parented. I see myself in that Black tradition.” When his father passed, he turned his grief and mourning into a celebration. The result was his album D.A.D., which is a collage of clips inspired by his family. “It’s a celebration of fatherhood and Black fatherhood.” Go check out his talk here to learn more.