Dogtown and Richmond community! The inaugural Virginia Black Dance Festival is occurring TOMORROW, March 20th, from 9:00am-4:30pm. Offerings include dance classes, workshop events, and panels aimed at elevating and centering BIPOC artists who live and make work in Virginia. The launching of this festival is an exciting and uplifting moment in the history of Richmond and Virginia's creative scene. BIPOC voices have been historically marginalized across time and space, making events such as VBDF so vital to our past, present, and future.
Names and recognition are important, and I would like to take a moment to name LaWanda S. Raines, who has spearheaded the building of the festival. Artists and facilitators who will be engaging with participants are Kevin LaMarr Jones, Kendra McNeal, Lydia Zipporah C., MK Abadoo, Deandra Clarke, Alicia Diaz, Christine C. Wyatt, and Christina Leoni-Osion. This panel of professionals incorporate a broad spectrum of experience, ages, backgrounds and perspectives, and have a wealth of knowledge to share.
Richmond, VA has a deep and rich history, one that is intimately interwoven with Black history in America, and one that is certainly too wide in scope to cover entirely. This history has been shaped by incidents of racism and othering, and also incidents of community and healing. VBDF layers into and extends the history of the city, continuing to develop the lineage of Black culture and arts in Richmond.
Richmond lies on Powhatan land and was one of the first settlements after Jamestown, beginning a complicated history of violence early on in the timeline of the larger American narrative. Richmond continued to have importance as the nation of America emerged out of the colonies, operating as an important trade and commerce site (meaning it relied on slave labor to function). Richmond later functioned as the capital for the Confederacy, continuing its legacy in supporting the enslavement and oppression of Black people in America.
As emancipation came about and moving into the 20th century, freed slaves and their descendants began to carve out their own space of reclamation inside of the city. The historic district of Jackson Ward became known as the "Wall Street of Black America" and the "Harlem of the South" as countless Black-owned and operated businesses thrived in the area. Many successful and important Black historical figures from this time have roots in Richmond, including Maggie L. Walker, the first African American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president in the United States. Richmond is currently home to many important cultural monuments, including the African American Ancestral Burial Grounds, the Richmond Slave Trail, Kehinde Wiley's Rumors of War monument, and the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, among many others. Virginia Black Dance Festival marks yet another important monument of Black excellence in Richmond, contributing to a rich community history. These few highlights are only a glimpse of the countless histories of Black people in Richmond, both documented and those that live in the collective consciousness through other means.
Our history shapes the future, and the future shapes our history. We are moving forward and creating better worlds together with events such as VBDF. Dogtown is excited to support the efforts of all of the excellent artists and administrators spearheading, leading, and facilitating this event. We hope to see many of you there!
Virtual and live options are available. Ticket information can be found at https://www.vablackdancefestival.org/.
More information on Black history in Richmond, VA: