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Arts/Lit
 Mar 24 - 30, 2016 
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Culture Shock

Black in Burque

Burque Noir celebrates black women, their art and activism

By Maggie Grimason

“People ask, 'Which black women in the arts are you going to honor?' and I say, 'All of them,'” Ebony Booth told me from across her desk at Harwood Art Center where she works as the Programs & Communications Coordinator. She is also the originator of Burque Noir, Saturday's event that will pay homage to black female artists and activists and serves as a culminating event in March's month-long Women & Creativity celebration. Burque Noir, organized and curated by Booth along with Jennifer DePaolo features music, poetry, live painting, dance and other presentations by and about African-American women working in the arts and activism. “I noticed that to celebrate Women & Creativity, there were no events, nothing really, that was honoring and acknowledging black women,” Booth said, so she took on the responsibility of creating one.

The event, or more accurately, party, will be held at Las Puertas Event Center (1521 First Street NW) in Wells Park and will feature a wealth of rich and varied performances from the likes of the always impressive Marya Errin Jones performing her experimental voice and electro mash-up as Ermine (“I really want people who've never seen Marya Errin Jones perform to see her … I want them to watch and experience that,” Booth commented) to poet-turned-musician Gabrielle Jackson, whose music fuses jazz, R&B and soul layered under distinct and powerful vocals. And there's a great deal more than that: Zimbabwean native and current Burqueña and UNM faculty member, Rujeko Dumbutshena, will be doing a dance performance and poet Jasmine Sena y Cuffee will be performing as well. Booth will also perform as part of the improvisational duo Wyches Brew. “We have this cool, simply complicated routine,” Booth said of the synergy between her and Donne the Wychdockta Lewis, the other half of the band. In between sets, DJ Bezo will fill the void spinning deep house music and Khalil Pope will emcee. And that's just a fraction of what Booth has planned for Burque Noir.

“One of the questions that I asked several of the performers and also ask myself is: How does your blackness color your art? Because I'm a woman, I'm a black woman, I'm an artist, so does that mean everything I do is black art? Or am I just an artist who is also a black woman?” Booth asked before concluding, “I reject the idea that there's such a thing as black art … There's such diversity in blackness that I don't think we often enough get credit for. We're a very diverse people with a wide breadth of skills and interests and we don't have to be doing the same thing to have community. … We can celebrate that.”

Acknowledging and celebrating the work of women of color is something everyone can and should do, obviously. “The idea is to be exclusively inclusive,” Booth explained. While all of the performers and presenters are black, and rightfully so, she added, “Everyone is invited, but the reason we're coming together is to celebrate black arts and black women in the arts and activism. … Everyone has benefited from [these] women … so I think we all have a reason to want to celebrate.”

There's also a networking element to Burque Noir that allows “artists entrée into a scene they might not always participate in,” making connections with gallery owners and enthusiasts across the city. Booth also notes that, having moved here a year ago from Denver, she didn't find the expression of her identity as present as she would like, and for that reason, Burque Noir is an ongoing project that has a life well beyond March 26's event. “I [want] to celebrate blackness and not have it be tethered to a beaucratic approved calendar. I think that in and of itself is activism,” she explained. To that end, Booth plans to organize monthly Burque Noir events. “I really want the event to grow because I think it has some really strong legs,” she said.

“We all stand on the shoulders of the women who came before us,” Booth said, a sentiment that rings true no matter who you are. On Saturday, take the opportunity to acknowledge that simple fact by getting decked out in black attire—“whatever makes you feel most fly. There's not rules”—and head to Las Puertas for Burque Noir because, as Booth is quick to note, “outside of the in depth thought process of race and culture and cultural integration and the arts and all that … Honestly, I just want to throw a really dope party.” This is one you definitely don't want to miss.

Continue the party by tuning in to Burque Noir's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for “a solid feed of that good medicine … a consistent, refreshing reminder that we are a diverse people that represent an African diaspora of brilliance and skill and beautiful things.”

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