One of the most popular sessions of the day, “Using the Internet to Advance Black Arts,” piqued the curiosities of a wide cross-section of the conference goers seated comfortably in the Blackburn Center‘s newly constructed “smart room.” As each of the presenters demonstrated the limitless advertising potential and in-house use of websites such as “Fyah.com,“ "De Griot Space,“ and African American Literature Book Club (AALBC), the audience welcomed their insightful ideas about how to expand their own businesses as well as enhance their personal store of knowledge. The group worked from the premise that the Internet is not only the fastest growing communications technology available today, but one that is making it possible for everyone--especially the Black artist -- to communicate with each other and propose alternative means of publishing and distribution.

     As expected, subjects involving Black Arts dominated the conference agenda. In addition to the session on using the Internet, another examined ways Black arts organizations could sustaining their economic health. Spurred on by Prester Pickett, Founder/Director of the Cleveland African Grove Ensemble, a large vocal contingent from Cleveland, Ohio offered some very practical solutions. The workshop entitled “Expanding Low/No Budgets as Prophets in Your Own Land” examined the strategies used by various Cleveland area artists to create an audience and find venues to celebrate their works with little or no money. As the conference continued in the Howard University Bookstore, dialogue centered around issues of cultural property, cultural ownership, and cultural affirmation remained charged. In a paper entitled “The Emergence of Stepping as an American Dance Tradition,” presenter C. Brian Williams, articulated the problems he and other members of the group Step Afrika! face in laying claim to their art form stepping. Howard University Theatre Arts Professor Sherrill Berryman Johnson and University of Heidelberg, German Professor Dorothea Fischer-Hornung offered interesting perspective on the aesthetics of dance and theatre. In later sessions the plight of the Black classical musician was taken up by Alfonso Pollard, Director of the American Federation of Musicians, along with Dr. Leon Neal. Continuing into the evening there were conversations by Dr. Augustella Clay and Useni Perkins, respectively, on strategies for teaching Black Arts and the need to develop culturally appropriate dramatic materials for Black children.

 

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May 2000