Blackfest focuses on social justice through black art

May 4, 2015, 6:10 p.m.

This year’s Blackfest featured various groups around campus performing music, dance and spoken word. The annual event was held put together by the Black Family Gathering Committee and focused on both celebrating black art and addressing recent social justice issues.

While the audience filed into Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Friday night, a jazz trio including ASSU execs John Lancaster-Finley ’16, Brandon Hill ’16 and Blane Wilson ’15 performed.

Mysia Anderson ’17 and Antoinette Luna Myers M.A. ’16 were the co-hosts for the night and began the event on a solemn note, addressing recent events of racial violence.

“Tonight as we celebrate black art, we want to take a moment to celebrate and honor black lives, especially those who cannot be with us this evening,” Myers said in her introductory address.

“Tonight we stand in solidarity with movements of Ferguson and Baltimore,” Anderson followed. “We grieve for the families who have to cry and light a candle for birthdays because they lost a family member to violence.”

After listing the names of victims of racial brutality, the hosts engaged the crowd in a moment of silence for these individuals.

“Connecting the event to outside events made the event that much more meaningful,” said attendee Fiona Kelliher ’18. 

“Black lives matter. Black trans lives matter. Black art matters — which is why we are all here today to celebrate the beauty of black expression,” Myers said.

The organizers, including Mariama Mallah ’15, Vanessa Zamy ’15 and Elliot Williams ’15, sought to make the introduction deliberate and powerful.

“A lot of times we bop along to hip-hop and love R&B, but we want everyone to think about the people creating this music and the movements behind this music,” Mallah said. “We want people to leave here feeling good and hopeful. We want people to leave here thinking that black arts matter, but black lives matter too.”

After the introductory remarks, Jackson Jirard ’17 recited his own poetry followed by performances from spoken word artists Greeshma Somashekar ’16, Sibel Sayiner ’15, Violet Trachtenberg ’16 and Emily Dial ’17.

“The spoken word was definitely my favorite part,” Kelliher said. “Everyone spoke with such power and eloquence about difficult topics, and the room was really energized and supportive.”

Blackfest did not receive special fees funding this year, so the committee had to reorganize the format of the event to involve more Stanford student groups and to rely on money from sponsors. However, it will receive special funds for next year.

“We changed the format of the event because of limited financial resources and brought it to Dinkelspiel Auditorium,” Mallah said. “We wanted to focus on Stanford art, especially Stanford black art.”

Because of the lack of funding, the Black Family Gathering Committee was considering not hosting the event this year.

“The reason we stuck with it was because for a lot of people on this campus, this is one of the few events that truly celebrates hip-hop and R&B and black art, and we wanted to find a way to make sure Blackfest still happened,” Mallah said.

“It is a way for the public to connect to the Stanford campus and open the bubble up,” added Zamy.

Performances included dances from groups such as the Stanford Steppers, Catch-a-Fyah and Afrobeats, rap by Natasha, Mylo Mu and Darling Bonnie, music from Brandon Hightower and mixes from the Outsiders and MMAP.

Jidenna Mobisson ’07, whose single “Classic Man” charted at No. 49 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for the month of February 2015, was the headliner of the event and concluded the night.

“Jidenna was involved in social justice at Stanford when he was here, and he is very aware of issues on campus,” Zamy said. “He is in tune with current events and is using his celebrity status to effect change and raise awareness.”

Williams emphasized the importance of finding an artist who respected and promoted equality.

“We wanted to be conscious when choosing an artist, especially given last year’s artists and how they treated the women on our campus and the message in their music,” Williams said. “We wanted to find an artist who was going to be respectful and would have a message to deliver about the Black Lives Matter movement and speak to the climate on campus.”


Contact Pallavi Krishnarao at pallavik ‘at’

A previous version of this article listed the incorrect years of the event organizers. The Daily regrets this error. 


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