Scintillating Saxophonist & Gospel Music Standout to Headline 33rd Annual Colorado Black Arts Festival

Scintillating Saxophonist & Gospel Music Standout to Headline 33rd Annual Colorado Black Arts Festival

We all know good things come in three's, and the 33rd Annual Colorado Black Arts Festival promises to be thrice as nice. The three-day event will feature sultry saxophonist Eric Darius on July 13 and gospel sensation, and Grammy award winner Le'Andria Johnson on Sunday, July 14, highlighting the regal spread of festivities. The 33nd Annual Colorado Black Arts Festival will be held at Denver’s City Park West July 12-14 and is free and open to the public. 

The Colorado Black Arts Festival (CBAF) was founded in 1986 to develop, promote and celebrate African arts and culture in Colorado. The festival has become the fifth largest event of its kind in the United States. The CBAF offers the opportunity to explore African culture through the visual arts, music, dance, hands-on activities, and a variety of cuisines to delight the most discerning palate.  This years’ theme, “InnerVisions… OuterVisions,” underscores an inward reflection of creative spirit and imagination which in turn is outwardly expressed through visual, performing, literary arts. It is through reflection and expression that one can take pride in one’s cultural legacy, past, present and future. Festival organizers have planned a number of activities within the Joda Village Compound, Art Garden, and Children’s Pavilion to engage attendees and share creations on African and African Diaspora art and culture. 

The 2019 Colorado Black Arts Festival is placing a tremendous emphasis on the Black holistic health. The festival will feature: Health Highways, a section that will provide free health screenings. Additionally, the festival will feature a Natural Hair Pavilion where hair experts will be on hand with demonstrations and tutorials for maintaining and styling natural tresses.

The three day festival is an institution in Denver’s African American community – a monument to beautiful, Black art, in every form. Artistically, soulful sounds will close out Saturday and Sunday with headliners Eric Darius and Le'Andria Johnson. 

Eric Darius is an internationally known jazz/R&B/pop saxophonist, songwriter, producer, and performer, and new CEO of SagiDarius Music. Darius took some time out of his schedule to talk with the Denver Urban Spectrum about his upcoming performance at the Colorado Black Arts Festival. 

DUS: This will be your first time performing at the Colorado Black Arts Festival, correct? 

Eric D.: Yes! I've been to Colorado a lot, since my career started in 2004, but this is my first time doing the Colorado Black Arts Festival. You know, there's a special feeling that I get every time I go to Colorado, whether it's in Breckenridge, or the Winter Park Jazz Festival, or the Soiled Dove. I just love being in Colorado. It's just a beautiful place. It just puts me in a completely different mindset. I'm really excited about celebrating our culture, and just having a blast with all the fans.

DUS: Is there any advice that you want to tell artists who are trying to get to where you've been and are today?

Eric D.: You know, for me, the key to my success has been the five P's: practice, persistence, perseverance, patience, and prayer. Those are the five P's that have really laid the groundwork for, where I am today. I let younger guys know that there's no overnight success. It's a grind, its hard work. At the end of the day, you truly have to find your own voice, what makes you unique. And that's how you'll be able to kind of breakthrough – by finding your own voice. 

The awakening, the evolution, the experience. There may be some things bigger than Le'Andria Johnson, but the stage isn't one of them. Although her life offstage has been her own personal hell, the Grammy award-winner is in heaven on that stage. Soaring with a voice that can make it feel like fire has shot up through your bones. The "I Shall Leap" singer has made headlines recently, for less than ideal reasons. Her struggles with alcoholism earned her the undesirable moniker “The Bad Girl of Gospel,” and a visit to Iyanla Vanzant to have her life "fixed." Fame can be as addictive and dangerous as any narcotic. For Johnson, after achieving fame rapidly as winner of the 3rd season of BET's Sunday Best things started to descend. Partying and alcohol got the best of her and she ended up in jail for 30 days in 2018 after a DUI arrest. In February 2019, Johnson entered rehab; and according to a June Facebook Live video she has been sober for seven months (Amen!). Johnson has fallen, and writhed in disgrace. More importantly after the fall, came humility and grace. 

Le'Andria Johnson is a woman of many facets and flaws. She is also a testimony to God’s amazing gifts constant love, strength, and power to deliver renewal to brighter days. Even though the sun will have set when she takes the stage at the Colorado Black Arts Festival on Sunday July 14, the Mile High night will shine brightly from her glow.

In the Black community, the level of appreciation for the role that the Black voice has in shaping our art, culture development and well-being for our community is at a crescendo – determined not to be silenced. 

In the watershed 400th year of our American sojourn, there is an onslaught of divisive actions and vitriol rhetoric within our country, hell-bent on trying to marginalize us and make us think we are less than ideal. 

But there's one thing I want you to remember: We created this. 

Before we were African Americans, we were Africans in America. We introduced this country to culture, class and civilization. Our people are the tastemakers, the innovators, the elevators, and the liberators. Every scholar or individual will agree that Africa, Mother Africa is the origination of civilization. The world as we know it would be nothing without the contributions from Africans and Mother Africa. Regardless of medium, art belongs to us – painting, sculpture, music, astronomy, science, culinary. You name it, we can claim it. In every quantifiable sense, everything that mankind has had the privilege of enjoying can be traced back to Mother Africa.

That's why the Colorado Black Arts Festival is essential for the African American spirit. The festival is a celebration of us, and all we've accomplished since the beginning of our time on this earth. The festival is a reminder that, art is Black and Black is beautiful.

Editor’s note: For more information about the Colorado Black Arts Festival visit www.colbaf.org 

 


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