On Saturday night, the Akron Civic Theatre will host a unique and powerful “Blackout.” And part of its inspiration came from the side of the Civic’s own building.

The mural of activist Sojourner Truth, unveiled in 2018, drew controversy for a lack of involvement and inclusion of African-American women or artists. Jamie Keaton, who performs spoken word as Samson the Poet, was inspired.

“He just said, 'I want an event that centers on black artist and I want it at the Civic,' ” said Amber Cullen, artistic director of Vibe Collective. “It was crazy at the time, but here we are, things have worked out the way Jamie wanted. Jamie’s heart was really into highlighting and to showcase black artistry in all its forms.”

Keaton is the project leader for "Blackout: The Artist Showcase," in which a group of local African-American performers will share their art and their truth. It’s presented by Vibe Collective, a growing network of about a dozen local artists and activists who first came together in January 2018.

“We are in the intersection of art, culture and education and we seek to create spaces for community transformation and healing,” Cullen said.

“A lot of us run art organizations ourselves, and run spaces in Akron. All of us are very like-minded that art can change our communities and art can change us as people and build empathy and connection in our city. And all of our work individually along those veins and as a collective, we try to do that on a larger scale,” Cullen said.

Its goals include steering potential audiences toward artists and creatives who aren’t regularly seen in the local mainstream arts community.

“In joining our voices together, we’re saying 'hey, our art matters too, and what’s going on here is really important and we’re bringing in people to know the stories of our communities, whether that’s North Hill, or South Akron or West Hill. We’re trying to bridge that gap and build audiences so people will come to the Exchange House and Summit Artspace and The Center, The W.O.M.B., all of these places where we live and breathe,” Cullen said.

"Blackout" will be one of the group’s bigger shows on one of the biggest stages in the area. The showcase will feature 14 acts in a variety of genres including spoken word, poetry, praise dance, music, theater and stepping. There will also be live art and local vendors on hand.

Those many forms include MC and DJ Ace Boogie, jazz saxophonist Chris Coles' trio, singers Denzel the Artist and Favor, spoken word and poetry from Jason Blakely and We$tEnd, praise dancing from Chosen Ministries, stepping from Hidden Tr3sures, hip-hop from conscious emcee A-Minus and a piece from “Sojourner Speaks” from Josy Jones, Chameleon Village Theatre Collective founder.

Following the show there will be an after-party at the Social 8 bar and lounge, 1800 Merriman Road.


Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.