B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence to celebrate 5-year anniversary as a collective

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B.L.A.C.K. (Black Literature & Arts Collective of Kansas) Lawrence this Saturday will host an anniversary show to celebrate five years of being a community collective of Black artists. The group aims to elevate and celebrate Black art, promote Black artists, and foster local education on Black issues.

“For our group to make it to five years means we’re doing something right, we’re providing a necessary service and hub for our community. I’m truly proud of everything we’ve done and learned along the way,” said Alex Kimball Williams, co-founder of B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence.

The celebration is scheduled for 10 p.m. Saturday, July 30 at the Replay Lounge, 946 Massachusetts St. Attendees must be 21+ to enter, and there will be a $3 cover fee at the door.

In the form of a live anniversary show, the celebration will feature a lineup of Black performers, including Barry “Washboard” Barnes, Bad Alaskan (Kimball Williams), and ARQuesta Del SolSoul. ARQuesta is a seven-piece band based in Kansas City, invited specially for this anniversary event.

Additionally, B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence will host vendor Sarah Ngoh, who makes wooden and collage jewelry, and the group will be selling merchandise for the first time.

Kimball Williams will help emcee the event and perform Indigenous dance music as well.

Barnes, a member of B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence, will be performing his experimental electronic music and conducting a live loop session with poetry at the anniversary show. Barnes shared his gratitude to the group and its work, especially that of Kimball Williams.

“I would like to thank Alex Kimball Williams for all her hard work for she is the one that holds B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence together and keeps it going,” Barnes said. “B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence has provided me and others with the tools and a platform to showcase our talents. It has been an honor for me to work alongside these Black talented creators, artists [and] performers.”

B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence members consist of visual artists, musicians, poets and more. Members are not required to participate in regular meetings nor is there a membership fee, which Kimball Williams said is a facet of the group’s governance that falls in line with its mission to advance Black art while combating disparities.

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“’Success’ doesn’t have to mean a lot of events or engagement — it doesn’t have to be through a business lens or be flashy or trending. I’m pleased to know we’ve created a collective our members can participate in regardless of their schedule,” Kimball Williams said.

“BIPOC must work an extra week’s worth of labor per month to close the wage gap, so it’s really important to me that B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence doesn’t detract from members’ schedules. It’s hard enough to find time to create & take care of yourself as a Black artist or gig worker,” Kimball Williams said.

Kimball Williams said the most impactful way community members can support B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence beyond this five-year mark and anniversary show is through referrals. If someone knows a Black artist looking for a community, an organization looking to employ Black artists or exhibit their work, or a friend who needs a service done and would like to put money into a Black-owned business, they can reach out to B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence.

Black artists who are interested in joining the group are also encouraged to reach out.

The group also has a PayPal where community members can make donations. As part of the celebration, the official B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence website will be debuting this weekend. It will be available to browse starting Saturday at this link.

To contact or to learn more about B.L.A.C.K. Lawrence, visit the collective’s Facebook or Instagram accounts or email blacklawrenceartscollective@gmail.com.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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