The 2020 Kalamazoo Black Arts Fest will be a digital celebration

This year’s Black Arts Festival will be a “virtual” event.
Kalamazoo’s 34th annual celebration of African-American culture, art, and innovation starts Friday, July 10, and continues through Sunday, July 12.

But to avoid bringing large groups of people together and prevent the spread of the coronavirus, it will be celebrated primarily online.
The three-day affair will feature a virtual art festival and other activities found here
Sydney Davis, director of the Black Arts & Cultural Center, says the digital festival will include virtual parties for adults that include music, comedy, and entertainment. There will also be conferences for entrepreneurs and artists on how to become online influencers and how to scale their businesses. And there will be opportunities to connect with local organizations and vendors.
The opening day of the event, Friday, is being considered Youth Day. As part of that, the BACC is inviting young people to do writings that may be included in a coffee table book. African-American youngsters are being invited to write or record why they love being black. Check the website for a hot button that allows stories to be submitted.
Saturday will start at 10 a.m. with a Creators Conference, a webinar with presentations by and conversations with creative, innovative, and mentoring individuals explaining how to go from amateur podcasting to becoming a full-time online influencer. The day is set to start with Kevin Fredericks, a YouTube content creator, comedian, and actor who is part of KevOnStage. The webinar sessions are to end at 8:30 p.m. with a panel discussion. The time in between will be filled with 30- and 60-minute session by a range of speakers including:

• “Side Hustler to Full-Time Entrepreneur,” by Mattie James, an Atlanta-based mother and podcaster;

•“Being Aggressively Genuine with Spice Adams,” by Anthony “Spice” Adams, a comedian, actor and former NFL football player;

•"How to Make Money with Your Podcast,” by Erik Heiss, the New York-based director of content partnerships for Audioboom;

•“Starting a Clothing Line with $500,” by Khalilah Wright, an entrepreneur and businesswoman who has started several small businesses including the T-Shirt company Mess in a Bottle.
The day will also feature a business pitch competition. Business people have registered to submit one-minute video presentations that “pitch” their ideas and reasons they should receive funding. As competitors are screened, they will make their presentations to judges live, via the Zoom conferencing app, from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday on the website.
Davis says monetary awards are intended to help business people trying to start or grow. She would not say how much money is being made available.
Sunday will feature a similarly organized pitch competition for artists. Davis says awards will be intended to help artists looking to develop projects.
“Sunday evening will be a virtual game night,” Davis says. Starting at 1 p.m., it will include a virtual version of Family Feud. Participating families have to register in advance and have adequate Internet and webcam access.
More information and updates are to be available on the Black Arts and Cultural Center website and at blackartsfestival.org and blackartskalamazoo.org.

Read more articles by Al Jones.

Al Jones is a freelance writer who has worked for many years as a reporter, editor, and columnist. He is the Project Editor for On the Ground Kalamazoo.