The fourth annual Artists of Color Expo and Symposium (ACES) took place over the weekend of April 2–3, both virtually and in person at LANGSTON (formerly Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute). The BIPOC-led and community-curated event featured the work of over 100 BIPOC artists, live performances, film screenings, artist talks, as well as workshops and opportunity tables.
Monique Franklin is a multi-disciplinary artist and self-described performance introvert. Her exposure to the arts began as a toddler under the guidance of her mother, who led family plays in the living room of their Rainier Valley home. Music spoke to Franklin first, followed by dance. She has fond memories of dancing on a mini trampoline while listening to Earth, Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, and Lionel Richie. Next was the written word.
“It wasn’t until I hit my teenage years, and life got complex as teenage years do. And I started writing,” Franklin shared. “I started journaling, and that was my entry into poetry, writing poetry as journal entries. And I did that for many, many years and never shared my poetry with anyone.”
“The central goal is to preserve and celebrate traditional practices that are either rare, endangered, or unique in Washington State,” Langston Collin Wilkins, director of the CWCT, said. “We really want to provide funding for artists to take time out of their lives and out of their busy schedules to secure the vitality of their cultural traditions.”
On Thursday, eight of Seattle’s mayoral candidates shared their plans for reviving the city’s arts communities at an Arts Forum at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. All the candidates agreed that arts and culture recovery is a necessary component in the city’s overall post-pandemic healing, but each had a different idea of how to go about it.
Now in its second year rebranded as Seattle Black Film Festival (SBFF), LANGSTON’s 18th annual event returns from April 16–26, 2021. Once again held in virtual space, SBFF will showcase 70 short and feature films — more than double last year — that demonstrate the diversity of stories from across the African diaspora.
“I feel the depth and breadth of storytelling that found us, that was submitted to the festival this year is extraordinary,” explains SBFF Director Andrea Stuart-Lehalle, who hints that both COVID-19 and recent racial reckonings have played a key role in shaping those narratives. “I feel like filmmakers are in this very raw and visceral space where their stories and experiences were close to the surface and for many, flowed directly into some powerful storytelling they put on-screen.”
Celebrating the diversity of Black cinematic brilliance, the 17th-annual Seattle Black Film Festival (SBFF) begins Friday, July 10, and runs through Sunday, July 12. Hosted by LANGSTON, a hub for Black arts and culture in the Central District, this year’s festival will be presented online for the first time, in partnership with the independent film screening and music platform, Couch-a-thon. It comes three months after the festival was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Creatives need their works to be shown more than ever and to connect with other filmmakers telling Black stories. We feel the acute need [to show] solidarity and amplify voices,” explains SBFF Director Andrea Stuart-Lehalle. “This is really an important moment for Black creatives, so I’m really happy we found a way to keep our platform going.”
On Sunday June 30, 17 high school and 18 middle school graduates and their families from all over the greater Seattle area celebrated their educational achievements at the 4th Annual Black Graduation for Middle School and High School students at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute.
Nothing really beats seeing a child’s eyes light up when they see Santa Claus, or even seeing a child with the opposite reaction, bursting into to tears after being forced to sit on the lap of some chubby, bearded man in a red suit. The secular part of modern Christmas is for children and for the memories we have of our own childhoods around this time of year.