This year’s scaled-back National Black Arts Festival signals the recent challenges confronted by the festival’s organizers. Current NBAF Chief Executive Officer Michael Simanga stepped into that role several months after the November 2011 departure of his predecessor, Neil Barclay.
“There was talk that the festival might go away this year,” said NBAF publicist Nikki Barjon. But Simanga decided that the show must go on, she said, and is focusing on next year’s festival, which will mark its 25th anniversary.
Many of this year’s NBAF events will be familiar to longtime attendees and anyone with a long cultural memory. The first official happening will be a screening of the 1961 film “A Raisin in the Sun”; among the last will be a Hammonds House Museum reception (3 p.m. July 15) for an exhibition of works by Harlem Renaissance artist Vivian Schuyler Key. Between those will be book signings, concerts and other exhibitions, as well as the recurring Children’s Education Village and the International Marketplace at Centennial Olympic Park. With the exception of the “Slavery by Another Name” program on July 12 and the July 14 gala, all 2012 NBAF events are free of charge. Check the schedule for details.
Festival highlights include:
“A Raisin in the Sun.” Screenings of the 1961 movie based on Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play. It recounts a black family’s travails over a home in Chicago’s racially restricted Washington Park neighborhood. With Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee and Louis Gossett Jr. 7:30 p.m. July 6 and 10 a.m. July 11. At the Southwest Fulton Arts Center.
Coretta Scott King Awards Book Fair. At the fair, on July 11 beginning at 10 a.m., prolific and much-lauded children’s author Walter Dean Myers will present two youth writer workshops, from 10:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 3 p.m., and Coretta Scott King Award winner Michele Wood will present workshops for young illustrators at the same times. Reservations and library cards required. At the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library’s Central Branch.
International Marketplace. More than 100 vendors, artists and artisans will offer such items as fabrics, clothing, jewelry, sculpture and leather goods. Senegalese painter Kalidou Kasse will be among the presenting artists. July 12-15. At Centennial Olympic Park.
“The Gray Room.” Photographs of pop maestro Michael Jackson by Todd Gray, who made pictures of the performer from 1979 through 1984. Events occurring in connection with this exhibition, which runs July 7 through August 31, will include a panel discussion about racial and identity issues among Sheila Pree Bright, Ed Garnes, Erin Harper and Fahamu Pecou, at 6:30 p.m. July 11, and an artist’s reception, where Gray will perform and will sign his book “Michael Jackson: Before He Was King,” 5:30-8 p.m. July 13. At Hagedorn Foundation Gallery.
“Slavery by Another Name”: The Dialogue. Inspired by Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, this talk will touch on themes that appear in an associated exhibition of works by Georgia artist Robert Claiborne Morris and in a documentary film that will run on multiple screens. Journalist Cynthia Tucker is scheduled as moderator. Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served. A reception will open the evening at 6:30 p.m., followed by the program from 7:30 to 8:30. July 12. At Mason Murer Fine Art.
Children’s Education Village. Hands-on activities, re-creations of Ndebele living spaces, a portrayal of a Zulu warrior and storytelling for youngsters. Registration required. July 13-15. At Centennial Olympic Park.
NBAF Music Stage. Three days of performances, including tributes to Chuck Brown and Don Cornelius. On the roster are Soweto Street Beat, Giwayen Mata, Leela James and Peabo Bryson, among others. July 13-15. At Centennial Olympic Park.
NBAF Gala: “A Gathering of Colors.” This year’s gala is a tribute to actress Ruby Dee, who is expected to attend. Also a fund-raiser for the festival, the evening will include film clips, live music, “ruby” décor and so forth. 7 p.m. July 14. At the St. Regis Atlanta.
Milkshake Quintet. The storied Atlanta trumpeter known as Milkshake performs with his jazz band. Singer-songwriter Daniel Moore also will perform. 7-9 p.m. July 15. In the Horizon Sanctuary at Ebenezer Baptist Church.