Arts

Madison prepares to celebrate city’s first Black Arts Matter Festival

The inaugural Black Arts Matter Festival will be held from March 3-9 at multiple locations throughout downtown Madison. The goal of the festival is both to provide a platform for black artists and to get the community thinking a little more about curing a noticeable lack of representation in a largely white city. 

Image By: Courtesy of Black Arts Matter Festival

One of the most endearing qualities of our fair city is a seemingly universal love for the arts. Every day of the week, on nearly every day of the year, citizens can look to all the venues scattered throughout the area to hear and see poets, musicians and the like perform at a high level. 

But as inclusive as Madison adamantly attempts to be, there are several groups of performing artists who feel under represented, hidden or unnoticed. Now, there will be a week for the city to celebrate one of these groups.

The inaugural Black Arts Matter Festival will be held from March 3-9 at multiple locations throughout downtown Madison.

According to event creator and spoken word award winner Shasparay Lighteard – a UW theatre and African American studies student – the goal of the festival is both to provide a platform for black artists and to get the community thinking a little more about curing a noticeable lack of representation in a largely white city. 

“We would like to challenge viewpoints here. Maybe through the festival, people will think more critically about who occupies performing arts spaces and works there,” she said.

In selecting performers, Lighteard and event organizers reached out to local artists and those from an array of other communities nationwide. The hope is for the community and the artists to learn from each other, that those who attend the events can show the artists what Madison is all about with our forward mentality and that the artists can entertain as much as enlighten the audiences. 

The name of the festival was a small subject of debate for event organizers. Lighteard emphasizes that everyone in the community and the surrounding area is invited and strongly encouraged to attend as many events as possible.

Starting on Sunday, March 3, a production of “Trouble in Mind” will be performed at the Bartell Theater as part of the BAM Festival beginning at 2 p.m. 

This will officially kick off the week of events, concluding with a two-night poetry slam competition held Friday and Saturday, March 8 and 9. This will feature 30 poets from all over the country.

Alongside the slam on Saturday evening will be a variety of other live performances and catering provided by a local operator.

A full list is provided below and more information about the festival can be found by clicking here.

Be sure to clear your schedule for next week! There are plenty of events to choose from with something for everyone.


Full List of Events:


Sunday: Trouble in Mind 

March 3, 2 p.m.

The Bartell Theater


Monday: Opening Event & Panel

March 4, 7 p.m.

Multicultural Student Center Lounge

Wednesday: Black & Ugly As Ever with Porsha Olayiwola

March 6, 7:30 p.m.

Anderson Auditorium, Edgewood College

Thursday: Spike Lee's Bamboozled (2000)

March 7, 6-9 p.m.

Madison Public Library


Friday: BAM Poetry Slam (Prelim)

March 8, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Madison Public Library


Saturday: BAM Poetry Slam (Final and Showcase)

March 9, 7 p.m.

Madison Public Library


John Everman is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. To read more of his work, click here.

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