as if it were church

Last March, Mattapan Cultural Arts Development (MCAD) awarded several mini-grants to local artists and arts organizations invested in “making art happen in Mattapan.”  Request for proposals went out in January, and by April, 2017 MCAD had aready distributed in excess of $20,000 dollars for arts programming to happen here; and all of it thanks to a generous grant received from LISC‘s Creative Placemaking Program.

Among the recipients was African Repertory Troupe, Inc. (the Other ART)–a Mattapan-based theatre arts organization, which received $5,000 for two separate proposals: $2,000 to plan and pilot a new performance series in conjunction with a local business in Mattapan Square, and a $3,000 presentation grant for its annual Haitian Heritage Month event–Fêt Toussaint.

So on World Aids Day 2017, African Rep put its planning grant to the test–piloting a performance series it hopes to launch next year at Brothers Deli & Restaurant in Mattapan Square.  Cassandra Cato-Louis, African Rep’s artistic director said, “this is the result of an eighteen month struggle to launch a performance series in the Square; and  tonight it was all worth it.”

Nina La Negra, founder of the original “Art Is Life Itself” (presenting monthly at the Haley House in Dudley Square), warmed up last night’s audience by sharing her own Mattapan memories growing up here.   Then Irvienne Goldson, ABCD’s Deputy Director for Health Services, talked about the significance of World Aids Day and encouraged everyone to get tested for HIV/AIDS.

When MC La Negra introduced master drummer, Nurudafina Abena, however, the audience responded to the djembe as if it were church.  Nuru’s drum cycled the audience through a highly-charged, interactive experience focused on healing and rejuvenation, before Nina wrested back the controls to introduce the next artists.

Kern Saint Dic accompanied vocalist, Coleen Ndebeka, who sings with so much heart that the audience demanded an encore.  Eleven year old, Caleb Belizaire closed out the evening, not with his viola, but with his most recent poem.  (Who knew?)

The successful launch of “AiLI n da Pan”–i.e., Art is Life Itself, [even] in Mattapan promises 2018 will bring more live arts to the Square.

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