Last month I had the honor of learning about Keno Evol and Black Table Arts, and I got to highlight black queer poets that Evol was showcasing as part of Black Table Arts’ Blackness Be Lit. I was already thrilled to see what else might come down the hatch from BTA, and it turns out, BlackQueerInk via Patrick’s Cabaret is one such event. I was instantly excited to hear about some important changes happening for the Cabaret, and even more excited to hear more from Black Table Arts as part of that. As more information pops up about Evol’s guest curatorship for BlackQueerInk, that excitement grows daily in direct proportion to the amount of talent included.

What is BlackQueerInk exactly? The event is described as “two nights of black queer magic,” or, more specifically, two nights of black spoken word that dance through history and forgoes linear narratives, offering instead creativity and conjure (a cornerstone for the young company). In very specific terms, BlackQueerInk is eight exceedingly gifted writers looking to contribute to the milieu of black literature in a substantive way. BlackQueerInk allows them to do so and seeks to take us on a journey rich with emotion, spirit, and transformation.

Featured on this fantastic evening of poetry and art are: Dua Saleh who’s work in artistic and literary mediums has earned her a 2017 Verve grant, Amir Khadar, Simone Williams, Erin Sharkey who is one of the co-founders of the experimental arts production company called Free Black Dirt, Zola E., Chava Gabrielle, Atlese Robinson who has worked in production and as a director with 20% and Penumbra theatre companies in addition to their own performance work, and musician Taylor Seaberg.

BlackQueerInk is a perfect event to follow up Patrick’s Cabaret’s recent big reveal about their new mission and vision (Though this is not the first event since that announcement — please see the website here for info about a wild, truly innovative approach to cabaret art through their Animal Kingdom Cabaret this weekend). The Cabaret has always had an intense focus on provocative art through the lens of marginalized people. Their new mission (voted on by staff and board) makes that focus undeniable and puts it center stage though. The reworded mission reads: “Patrick’s Cabaret is a queer-led performance art incubator supporting the growth and development of artists on the edge of culture.” This tells us a couple of really interesting things: in the spirit of founder Patrick Scully and current Executive Artistic Director Scott Artley, the company is devoting itself to remaining queer-led no matter what else happens or what else they discover in their progression forward. Another important reason for the change comes directly from the press release announcing this change. Artley says of the change “To us, placing ‘queer-led’ in our mission statement is a recognition that queer-identified (LGBTQIA+) people are in positions of power, and that the organization supports work including, but not restricted to, queer-focused content.”

The revamped mission statement also lets us know that Patrick’s Cabaret will be instituting policies and programs that are dedicated to fostering growth of other artists and projects as they focus on their own (which still meet that mission). Specifically, the company is instituting an official Teaching Artist Residency. From the press release, “Teaching Artist Residencies are carefully designed to help participants find and hone their creative voices in their own spaces and on their own terms. We work closely with organizations to develop a custom residency format to meet the community’s learning and social goals, and put artists from the Cabaret’s artist network to work on shaping the experience together.Current projects include work with LGBTQ youth and adults living with HIV.”

BlackQueerInk promises to tie in to Patrick’s Cabaret’s latest evolution perfectly. The event is obviously queer-led and focused, but I don’t want to overlook the importance of focusing on ALL artists living on the edge of culture also present in the current mission statement. As we navigate continuously tumultuous social, political, and economic times, LGBTQ+ people can not leave behind other marginalized voices. Black voices are particularly vulnerable to being silenced now, and the way the black arts community is refusing to allow that to happen is breathtaking. Black Table Arts has been a huge force for that already in the Twin Cities, and BlackQueerInk is bound to be one of the best shows you’ll see all year. By hiring Evol as a guest curator for the show, Patrick’s shows a continued, if more official now, commitment to all voices on the edge of culture, as well as a strong dedication to fostering emerging and growing artists, as Evol has worked with the company before as he is building is own (soon to be) spoken word empire. Evol says of his work with Black Table Arts and this event specifically “Words shape worlds,” and BlackQueerInk promises to thin the veils between worlds, helping us restructure and reshape what we thought we knew. This is the definition and purpose of “being on the edge of culture”, and a show you do not want to miss.

BlackQueerInk is being listed as open to everyone (IE allies welcome), and takes place at the Phoenix Theater on March 17th and 18th at 8:00 P.M. Tickets and other details are available here, though Patrick’s encourages you to purchase directly from artists (including Evol) for just $10. All proceeds benefit artists directly, and as we embrace the necessary change from Patrick’s Cabaret, it is comforting to see that some things remain strong even in the face of bold restructures, and the Cabaret’s commitment to artists is a great thing carry with them into this next queer-led era.

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