THE BLACK OUT FORUM – Hosted by Virtu Arts

Femme Folks Fest Company in Residence
Facilitated by Vanessa Spence (Artistic Director, Virtu Arts)
6:00 – 7:30 PM  March 13

The Black Out Forum is a conversation starring artists from the Black/Caribbean/African diasporas to speak candidly about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being an artist in regions where we are not well represented. The forum will feature a grassroots conversation in accordance with the Virtu Arts creative streams of arts education, development, and production. The intention of this forum is to gather and build community while giving voice to the experiences of Black/Caribbean/African artists. By sharing lived experiences in a safer space, we are encouraging folks to learn from the past and be educated in the present to incite change & evolution for our future.

Presented by Virtu Arts, The Black Out Forum will be held during the Femme Folks Festival on March 13th, 2021 @ 6 PM. The forum will be 90 minutes long with a 10-minute introductory arts performance by storyteller Shama Saleh.

All events require a Femme Folks Fest Pass. If you are able during these unprecedented times, we kindly suggest a donation of $50.
All Femme Folks Fest donations will be directed to local artists.

Vanessa C Spence (Facilitator): is a classically trained theatre actor, published author, playwright, producer, and arts educator. She is a creative entrepreneur with over six years of experience in the performance arts industry and social sectors. Vanessa is the artistic director of Virtu Arts, a production company that develops and creates live performance art that is shared in a virtual space to be enjoyed by all. At the root of her life’s work and her artistry, Vanessa seeks to inspire empathy and action by shedding light on the thought processes of women in marginalized communities. Her latest project entitled Stretch Marks, based on her self-published book of poetry explores the mental, emotional, and physical imbalances BIMOC (Black, Indigenous, Mothers of Colour) face through the many stages of motherhood. Part 1 of this three-part series focused on the moments leading up to a young woman’s decision of whether to become a mother or not. Vanessa is excited to continue the development of Stretch Marks Part 2 with the support of this year’s Women’s Room cohort.

Glodeane Brown (Panelist): is an arts management professional and an arts and culture blogger. She has lived in Waterloo Region for a long time, maybe too long. She is the Founder and Editor of Culture Fancier, the arts and culture blog she started in 2016 with the aim to educate, entertain, and inspire people. Brown is a sometimes curator and is currently working as the General Manager at CAFKA (Contemporary Art Forum Kitchener and Area), helping to plan and manage the 2021 biennial exhibition. She is also a Director at Arts Awards Waterloo Region.

Sarah Nairne (Panelist): is a young Black professional self-taught actor, singer, creator and musician based out of Kitchener, ON. Sarah is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, with a Bachelor of Arts focusing in Political Science & Speech Communications with a minor in Studio Art and more. She’s had the privilege to share her performance work on multiple stages across Canada starting off at Drayton Entertainment, to Tweed and Co. and namely in the Canadian Premiere of The Color Purple at Neptune Theatre, as well as the Citadel Theatre/Royal MTC co-production. She was part of Black Theatre Workshop’s Artist Mentorship Program, which had given her the opportunity to elevate her skills and enrich her understanding of Black Canadian theatre.

Photo credit: Dennis W. Langley

Natasha Adiyana Morris (Panelist): is a playwright of Jamaican-Canadian descent. Recognized for founding PIECE OF MINE Arts, a platform for presenting works-in-progress by Black play creators, she has overseen the showcasing of over 200 artists since 2013. Natasha is the playwright and director of The Negroes Are Congregating, which received a Dora nomination for Outstanding New Play (2020) and won the SummerWorks’ New Performance Text Award (2018). The satirical drama touches on internalized racism and has been produced internationally, including Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is honored to join the 2021 Soulpepper Academy and b current’s playwright incubator.

Shama Saleh (Panelist/Artist): is a story-teller who finds creative ways to meet all parts of who she is. At a young age, she turned to writing as a therapeutic means of private expression. She finds importance in always writing from a place of personal transparency, while also combining advocacy and creativity for those who choose to listen and resonate with her work. As a Black Muslim Womxn, she hopes to continue to contribute to the story-telling ways of her people and give voice to the voiceless through love and compassion. As the great poet, Toni Morrison said, “Make up a story… For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul.”