'Not your Mama's' average Black History Month event

Black women and queer individuals aren't often profiled during Black History Month—something spoken word poet Mel Vee is reversing through an all-female cabaret that she and five other artists have created.  

The show (entitled We Gon Be Alright) will debut at the Calgary Arts Commons later this month, and features spoken word, dance, musical and drag performances in order to give people who are often marginalized by society a way to express themselves in a raw and true way.

"The cabaret is an exploration into the themes of resilience and identity – our past is our present and our present informs our future pathways," said Mel Vee. "It's important for marginalized people to tell their own stories from their own perspectives."

Mel Vee describes the show as "Not your Mama’s" average Black History Month event, adding that the artists aren't censored and that attendees will leave the show feeling hopeful but are challenged to sit with any discomfort that may arise while watching the performance.

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"I'd like them to think about why that might be the case and unpack that feeling. My job as an artist is to express myself, my experience and the stories I need to express," said Mel Vee. "Art is not passive. Part of the process of being an audience member is the responsibility for them to really think about what they are taking in. It's important to weave in a message of hope but not shy away from the difficult social and systemic themes."

Shawnnette Fraser, District Vice President at TD, says TD’s Black Employee Network (BEN) is proud to sponsor the performance art show because it not only serves as a platform to celebrate the black community but also showcases "how these themes and history have shaped our culture and experiences today.”

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"This event pushes us to explore difficult subjects and how we can continue to grow as a people and support each other going forward," adds Fraser.

Mel Vee says inspiration for the show's name is a nod to rapper Kendrick Lamar's song Alright and is a lyric of the song. She felt the message of Black identity and true resilience resonated closely with the essence of the cabaret.

Every February, Canadians are invited to participate in Black History Month festivities and events that honour the legacy of Black Canadians, past and present. It began as a way for remembering important people and events in the history of the African diaspora.

Tickets to the cabaret and more information can be found at the venue's site here.