There are a lot of amazing talents in the Milwaukee arts and entertainment scene right now – some of it has yet to be discovered. The 2018 Wisconsin Black Arts and Entertainment Festival will be the place to see it.

Adisa Lumumba

“We want people to know that we are here and we are doing wonderful things. There’s a lot of great things that go on in the inner-city of Milwaukee and we want people to see it,” Adisha Lumumba, coordinator of the festival, tells Madison365. “The arts, for me, are my passion. That’s what drives me. How can I use my art to influence other people and let them know that we’re still fighting for what we believe – our future, our young people and our community? This is a really creative way to do it.”

The event will take place at the Wisconsin African American’s Women Center on Milwaukee’s near north side. This will be the second year or the 2018 Wisconsin Black Arts and Entertainment Festival, which is being put on the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce. Lumumba is the executive administrative assistant for the Chamber.

“The goal of the Wisconsin Black Arts and Entertainment Festival is to market and promote black businesses in Milwaukee and Wisconsin,” she says. “[Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce Executive Director] Ruben Hopkins started this last year to get all of these artists out and needed exposure but to also make those connections with different black businesses in the surrounding areas.”

Ruben Hopkins, CEO of Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce.

The festival is a three-day celebration that includes live performances from spoken word artists, dancers, and musicians. There will also be vendor displays and interactive activities such as demonstrations from visual artists, writer workshops, craft making for children and film screenings.

The opening night is called “Soul Lounge” and is a night of mature live entertainment, food, shopping and good vibes. “It’s for people 21 years old and older. We’ll have different artists coming in and vendors from Chicago, Illinois, and other places in Milwaukee,” Lumumba says.

Saturday will be a day focused on the youth and celebrating and acknowledging Milwaukee artists and art legacy. The day will include live performances, food, a youth stage, a main stage, a youth corner and more.

“We really want to cater more to the young people. I, myself, work with youth. Youth are my passion,” Lumumba says. “So we are looking for 30 youth who can volunteer and help out with the event, as well.”

Lumumba works with youth through her dance company, the Libation Dance and Drum Ensemble, where she teaches black youth African dance, Afro-Hip-Hop, Afro-modern dance. “I’m also a traveling poet, as well. This summer I hosted a workshop at UW-Milwaukee for middle-school-aged students,” Lumumba says. “I did a writing workshop and also a dance workshop. I do a lot with young people with dancing and writing and it’s really based upon culture and education in a creative way.”

Musician/poet Tebe Zalango will perform at the 2018 Wisconsin Black Arts and Entertainment Festival.

All of the action will take place at the Wisconsin African American’s Women Center, a two-level building. “We have a stage upstairs and a stage downstairs, so there will be many activities going on simultaneously that day,” Lumumba says. “There will be youth African dance groups, youth entrepreneurs.”

The Festival will close on Sunday with what Lumumba calls “Soul Sunday” that will include food, shopping, a fashion show, and a Gospel concert you won’t want to miss.

Singer Elle Renee will be at the Wisconsin Black Arts and Entertainment Festival.

“I’m excited about the fashion show. We have all-male designers which is almost unheard of,” Lumumba says. “The Gospel concert should be fun, as well. This is a really exciting event with a great variety of things going on.”

Although the 2018 Wisconsin Black Arts and Entertainment Festival will feature black artists and entrepreneurs, Lumumba says the event is for anyone and everyone and is hoping for a diverse crowd.

“The performances are targeted toward the black artists and black businesses because I feel that it’s really hard to showcase positive black artists,” she says. “In the black community, we often have this stigma that black businesses aren’t good businesses, and that’s not true. We have a lot of great black businesses in our community and we want them to know that we are here to help in any way that we can.

“There’s a lot in our community that we need to fix and it’s part of our job to work together to do that and to work to be self-sufficient in our own community like other communities are,” she adds. “The whole goal of this is to bring that unity and to show that no matter who you are – an artist, a business owner, a teacher, a lawyer – we all have a hand in building our community.”

Youth rapper/singer Jahbarri Bradshaw will perform at the 2018 Wisconsin Black Arts and Entertainment Festival.

This festival is a three-day celebration including live performances from spoken word artists, dancers and musicians that Lumumba is hoping will continue to get larger in the coming years.

“It’s just the second year. It’s still very young. I hope that it continues to get bigger and bigger,” Lumumba says. “My hope is that in the future, celebrities are willing to come and help. Because it’s not just for the arts, it’s for the networking and the relationships that we build through these festivals. That’s another goal of the event … to see who we can connect with so we can build. Every year we want this to get this bigger and bigger.

“We know that Milwaukee is really fertile ground to build on a lot of great things and we think that this event will be an excellent opportunity to move things forward,” she adds.

2018 Wisconsin Black Arts & Entertainment Festival will be held Feb. 2-4. For more information, click here.

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.