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Artist movement changes the cultural landscape in Leimert Park

Gregg Reese | 6/22/2017, midnight
The wellspring of creativity in Leimert Park Village is about to yield another cultural blessing upon the city, with the ...

“Black Speculative Art is a creative, aesthetic practice that integrates African or Africana Diasporic worldviews with science or technology… as a catalyst for the future.”

—Reynaldo Anderson, Ph. D., Harris-Stowe State University

The wellspring of creativity in Leimert Park Village is about to yield another cultural blessing upon the city, with the first local installation of the Black Speculative Arts Movement (BSAM) this Sunday, June 25. The brainchild of founder Maia “Crown” Williams (who also co-founded the Midwest Ethnic Conventions for Comics and Arts, or MECCA-Con), BSAM has been staging conventions in cities like Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Toronto over the past two years.

Williams became interested in speculative fiction as a means to provide her son with Afro-centric images he could relate to in his formative years. Building upon these maternal instincts, she became an active participant in the convention circuit, and began mounting her own productions over the past four years with monthly presentations in major cities and colleges across the country and overseas.

The desire for diversity, community, and self-empowerment transcends geographic boundaries. Williams works with MECCA-Con co-founder Reynaldo Anderson, of historically Black Harris-Stowe State University, to showcase art and culture centered on the African Diaspora and other traditions. While past gatherings centered on Afro-futurism, (the convergence of Black culture and science fiction), Sunday’s event will highlight film, music and other genres in keeping with Los Angeles’ status as the entertainment hub of the world.

BSAM L.A. will incorporate the established traditions of the Leimert Park Village community, including the Art Walk, the Blessing of the Park, a drumming processional, and ancestral mask festival.

Educator and village elder Ben Caldwell has designated sites within the village where the festivities will take place, including The Vision Theatre, KAOS Network, and People’s Street Park.

Especially noteworthy is an “augmented reality” (superimposing computer-generated imagery) piece based on the “Sankofa” (translated as “go back and get it”) tradition of the Ashante people of Ghana. It is represented by a symbol of a bird with its head backwards, taking an egg off its back. It references the need to honor the past to negotiate the present and go confront the future.

On hand will be dozens of artists, creators, musicians, performers, scholars and notables contributing to the discourse on diversity and the future. Among them, Denys Cowan, a “Godfather” figure for Black independent comic creators will sit on panels for animation and comic creation, while actors Erika Alexander (the Cosby Show, Déjà Vu, and Get Out), and Richard Gant (CB4, Krush Groove, Hood of Horror) will discuss their Hollywood experiences with other Black performers.

From the academic world, San Diego State University Africana Studies professor Ajani Brown will attend, along with speculative fiction writer and University of California at Riverside professor Nalo Hopkinson.

Visual art fans will rub elbows with animator Carl Jones (“Adult Swim,” “Black Dynamite,” and “Boondocks”), mega creator Shawna “Lazymills” Mills, “Concrete Park” creator Tony Puryear, the Nigerian American Udeh Brothers, creators of Red Origins, and multi-media giants the Mad Twinz of Blok Hedz fame.

Aural entertainment includes the Detroit techno music collective Underground Resistance (UR), and multi-instrumentalist Lorenzo Ferguson aka “Zo!” (who will showcase his film in People’s Street Park).

Also on the MECCA-Con People’s Street Park presentation are films by Alain Bidard, Xavier Burgin, and Derek D. Dow. Other filmmakers in attendance will be actor/writers Evita Castine and Ka’ramuu Kush.

BSAM opens Sunday at 10 a.m. in Leimert Park Village, and goes on indefinitely.

For tickets ($5 and $10 for the entire event) go to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/black-speculative-arts-movement-la-bsamla2017-tickets-32305221788.