What was your inspiration to start The New Griots Festival? Or why New Griots and why now?
Jamil: Josh Wilder [playwright, actor, and co-producer of New Griots] and I were inspired to create the festival because we recognized that the Black artists in this town weren't being widely celebrated. The Twin Cities promotes itself on being artist friendly yet Black artists are so poorly represented in the various mediums. Also, selfishly, Josh and I wanted to meet more talented, young, Black artists in the town.
We wrote a grant application to the Minnesota State Arts Board and were blessed to receive the funding to put the festival together. I'm so happy that granting programs like this exist here in the state. It allows projects like The New Griots Festival and young producers like Josh and me a chance to create a space for the work we want to see.
Why did you choose the name "New Griots?"
Josh and I chose the name because it is connected to a strong history of Black and African storytelling. The word "griots" is a west African term for storyteller. All throughout my life that term has been one of endearment and respect. A community's griot is very well respected; they hold the community's stories and share them. We are identifying with those griots before us and taking our place as the next ones.
The New Griots Festival
August 14, 15, and 16
Jamil: In this case, we've been responsible for finding artists, securing funds, locking down the venue, creating the schedule, marketing, administration, documenting the process and paying the artists when it's all said and done. Since this is the first ever festival, we have to create the infrastructure. We HOPE it won't be that hard next year.
How did you decide what artists would be included?
Jamil: We found our artist roster in a number of ways. First, we reached out to our networks and asked for suggestions. Second, we put out a call for proposals. After that round, we took a look at the potential artist roster and sought out more artists from the visual and music world, and more women artists. We've arrived at a very aesthetically diverse group with total gender parity.
What kind of response did artists have when you announced New Griots?
Jamil: Response has been great! Artists are excited about having a new festival in town specifically geared to celebrating Black excellence.
How have you gone about promoting this project? Could you talk a little about how you are encouraging audiences to take the leap and try out something new?
Jamil: We've tried to leverage our current connections to help us market. Social media has been big. We've also asked our artists to promote the festival too. Artists are your best asset in promotion. Our amazing graphic designer, Jamaica Meyer, created really cool graphics and that's been helpful. We put those flyers all over. Finding the community partners whose missions reflect your own is an important value to me and we've found ways to connect our organization to the community groups who desire what we can bring.
Can you talk about the intersection of your two passions of social justice and theater and how that helps you decide what projects you take on?
Jamil: I am passionate about seeing diverse stories on stage. That pushes me to find plays that represent the underrepresented or to create my own projects to tell those stories.
$30 Festival Pass
Admission for all three days of performances and panel discussions. Food and drink included.
$12 Single Day Access
Admission to all events. Food and drink included.
Friday, August 14:
4 p.m. to Midnight
Opening ceremony, performances, community classes, and an evening social event.
Saturday, August 15:
11 a.m. to Midnight
Performances, panel conversations with the Dramatists Guild and co-producers Josh Wilder and Jamil Jude, and an evening social event.
Sunday, August 16:
11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Community “Emerging at Any Age” panel conversation, performances and closing ceremony.
The Phoenix Theater in Uptown
2605 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55408
Follow The New Griots Festival on Twitter: @NewGriotsFest. Also, follow the conversation with hashtag #NewGriotsFestival and #WeGotNext.