Black Arts 

Just so Harry Potter fans aren't confused, the Memphis Black Arts Festival isn't an opportunity for the followers of Voldemort to gather in Overton Park to have a picnic and plan the ultimate fate of Hogwarts. It's a celebration of Memphis' African-American performing artists organized by the Hattiloo Theatre's founding director, Ekundayo Bandele.

Bandele has frequently voiced his concerns that African-American artists in Memphis aren't as connected as they need to be and, as a result, they miss many economic and artistic opportunities. To compensate, he's organized a number of events designed primarily to introduce black actors to one another and to consider their place in history and as part of the contemporary Memphis arts scene. Last year, Bandele held his first Black Arts Symposium. This year, he's taking things a step further with a free day-long festival showcasing dancers, writers, actors, and musicians.

"The goal is to introduce the community at large to the diversity of our city and to forecast how Hattiloo will use its new space in Overton Square to give a physical platform for artists," Bandele says.

Arts organizations scheduled to perform range from the well-known Watoto de Afrika dance troupe to emerging groups like Out Loud Artistry, an interdisciplinary troupe whose members think artists have a moral obligation to serve their communities.

Theater fans can sample performances by Hattiloo and by Bluff City Tri-Art Theatre company, which was created to stage work by Memphis playwright Ruby O'Gray, a major force behind the creation of the new Women's Theatre Festival of Memphis.

Musical performers include singer-songwriter Barbara Lester, neo-jazz vocalist Jamille "Jam" Hunter, and Black Rock Revival, which plays blues-infused rock in the spirit of Cream and Jimi Hendrix.

The Memphis Black Arts Festival at Overton Park, Saturday, May 12th, noon-4 p.m. Admission is free.

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