Free Festival To Celebrate Pittsfield’s Black Community
A five-day festival highlighting Pittsfield, Massachusetts’ Black community kicks off Wednesday.
Barrington Stage Company is producing the “Celebration of Black Voices.”
“It's kind of a spinoff from last year’s ‘West Side Takes The Stage’ where we had the one-night concert where we brought local community artists out to perform and do a talent showcase," said Sharron Frazier-McClain, BSC’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Community Engagement Coordinator. “The whole purpose of all of these events is to just use the arts to bring the community together. And to really, really just, in my opinion and my vision, is to use this as an opportunity for the West Side and Morningside neighborhoods to rewrite that narrative and tell their own stories.”
The festival begins with a performance from Syracuse funk outfit Brownskin Band.
“Then Thursday, we go into a storytelling event with Ty Allan Jackson," continued Frazier-McClain. "One of the important components of this festival, even though we wanted to entertain people and bring people together, we wanted to keep that educational piece, and the storytelling event with Ty is going to be a ‘make yourself into a superhero’ event where he's going to be able to talk to the kids and empower them using storytelling as a way to just uplift the kids in the community. So they're going to build their own superhero, they're going to build their persona, all the kids are going to get a superhero mask making kit.”
Thursday night features a poetry slam from local writers.
“What we did was, we just created a space for anyone to come into that was curious or loved poetry," explained Frazier-McClain. "And we had a group of 11 community members ranging from age 9 all the way up to 70+. And they kind of just came into a room and we just got to know each other and started writing poetry. So at this poetry slam, we're going to hear the pieces from the people that participated in these workshops. And that's going to be led by ChefXArt, who's known to those in the Berkshires as Big Daddy from Big Daddy’s Philly Cheesesteaks.”
Adults will compete in a talent show for cash prizes up to $500 on Friday, while Saturday will see kids take to the stage for the chance to win scholarships.
“Going back to that educational component, you know, when you think about minorities, a lot of people struggle with paying for continued education," said Frazier-McClain. "But we just wanted to be able to support that and help people on their continuing education path. So we didn't just make the requirement for people who are in college or college seeking. It's for any continued education program, whether it's a trade school, certificate program, anything that they feel could help them, you know, move forward. “
For the grand finale, Sunday kicks off with a gospel performance.
“We created a community choir called ‘Celebration of Black Voices Choir,’ and we brought people together from local churches and just, again, came into the room with that love for music and just started learning some music together,” said Frazier-McClain.
It closes that night with a performance of an original piece for the stage.
“Shirley Edgerton co-wrote and directed this piece," said Frazier-McClain. "And it's based off of the Sojourner Truth poem ‘Ain’t I A Woman.’ And it's really just taking us through history, highlighting some prominent Black women in history and really telling their story. But she also has some amazing featured artists. Wanda Houston will be singing and performing in that production.”
The free festival will be held outside the Polish Community Club on Linden Street Wednesday through Sunday.