The illusion theater was hosting the Free Black Table Open Mic, a bi-monthly event put on by local organization BlackTableArts. The open mic has an exclusive artist sign up for black people and people of color making it the first of its kind, but all are encouraged to attend.
“We seek to conjure other worlds through black art and connecting creatives and cultivating volume in black life” said Keno Evol, the founder and executive director of BlackTableArts. “At BlackTableArts, we believe in joy and gathering joy through black folks and art and imagination.”
Evol is a six year educator who also organizes Black Lines Matter, a writing program at the Loft Literary Center held every other Saturday. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the 2017 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest and has taught at nineteen Minnesota institutions.
While the event serves as a space for artists to perform their material, there is also a focus on networking. Free food and drink are offered before the show starts and artists are encouraged to mingle with each other. Local entrepreneurs are also able to set up booths and sell their products.
“This is dope,” said local artist QT who is also a former MCTC student. “I’m excited to perform my stuff and to listen to the other artists. I like how I can meet new people and hopefully work with some of them.”
Artists of all ages graced the stage sharing different experiences and perspectives. Some were more lighthearted, like two young children performing their favorite songs to a cheering audience. Others were more heavy, like an older poet describing the sad reality of the strained relationship between law enforcement and the black community.
People laughed and danced as the DJ played popular hits, and there was even a trivia game where free T-Shirts were given to those who answered questions correctly.
The two hour event allowed for about a dozen artists to perform everything from comedy to hip-hop. The host got the audience involved in supporting the acts by asking them to applaud before and after every performance. The space created by Keno Evol and his team allowed for young people to express themselves and explore their art in a safe and encouraging space.
Although not everyone was able to display their talents on stage due to high turnout, artists can sign up for the next Free Black Table Open Mic. Since the event happens bi-monthly, expect it to happen again sometime near November. Visit www.blacktablearts.com or visit the open mic’s Facebook page for more information.