A review of DA Black Arts: Black joy and innovation
March 8, 2022
The show opened with a beautiful four-part harmony arrangement of Jacksonville native James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The Black Joy Arts Showcase at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts was two hours long and it flew by.
The performances flowed from one to the next, like the lines of a poem. They balanced each other well so that the showcase never felt too heavy, but also maintained an element of gravity.
According to Kaysyn Jones ‘22, one of this year’s executive directors and performers,“We picked Black Joy in order to switch the narrative of Black Arts in general. Instead of focusing on pain and trauma, we wanted to focus on the power we find in a joyful community.”
My personal favorite act was the performance “Black Joy,” by Aja Monet, performed by Niveah Glover ’24, Erica “Zaneta” Lockwood ’24, and Ta’Nivea Kinchen ’23. It was originally a poem meant for the page, but the performers broke the poem down into three separate voices running throughout their performance.
The two other acts that most caught my attention were a small theatrical scene following the narrative of a black couple meeting when they were 11 years old, and following them to an older, but non-specified age, likely around their 70’s, as well as a slam poem about a man in a red fedora on a bus describing the true nature of jazz.
After viewing the show, I had the privilege of speaking to Jones. Her primary art form is creative writing, and she particularly enjoys writing poetry, which is evident in her cadence, as all of her words are precise and descriptive with strong images, exactly like a poem.
According to Jones, Black Arts has existed in some iteration or another at Douglas Anderson for over ten years. “We’re still trying to piece [the history] all together.”
According to Jones, DA Black Arts is also a one-of-a-kind program. “We’re the only club of our kind anywhere in Jacksonville, at least.”
This is in part due to the fact that the vast majority of administration and direction is student run, “Each year, students choose the new executives, choose the arts area directors, [and] the theme. A lot of the work is original [as well].”
Although Jones says DA is not devoid of problems, it is constantly changing to reflect the student body. “We had problems in the past, sometimes with how race was handled on campus. But honestly, things have just gotten better and better.”