*The Blackout Festival aims to celebrate and empower visionary voices that consistently champion diversity in storytelling, as the website states, and this year’s event saw the work and voice of many artists focused on the growing national movement around police brutality and social justice.
The Root caught up with Chris Rock, who was on hand for the event and shared a sentiment echoed by many. “It’s great and it sad,” he said. “It’s great that people are getting involved. It’s sad that they have to.”
Justin Simien, director of the 2014 hit “Dear White People,” reflected on the importance of events like the Blackout Festival.
“The truth is when I made my movie it was in the era when growing up [saying] racial stuff people thought you were playing the black card,” said Simien. “Stuff like this legitimizes the kind of conversation that I think some of us in the community didn’t really know how to have before.”
“Dear White People” star Tessa Thompson spoke about using art that reflects the various communities of color.
“Today’s an incredible opportunity to see work, hear people speak, to be part of the conversation,” Thompson said. “When you’re in the business of making films you hope to be making content that starts a dialogue but you don’t often get to be part of that dialogue. And so I’m attracted to any sort of experience where I get to directly relate to people.”
Actor Nate Parker, who is part of the collective of artists who launched the Blackout Festival, also stressed the importance of creating art that demonstrates “what I stand for” because “all these issues are my issues, as a man of color and as a filmmaker.”
“I went to Ferguson and came back angry and frustrated. And I felt like unless I’m part of the conversation that is progressive, that is going to inspire systemic change, then I need to sit down.”
Singer V. Bozeman, best known for her role on the hit Fox TV series “Empire,” performed in the music showcase at the festival, and supported the opinion of many by explaining her role as an artist during this racially charged moment we’re living.
“I always am an advocate for my people. [I’m about] any cause that’s about making us move forward in a positive way,” she said. “I’m an artist and I like to use my platform. I don’t want my platform to use me, I use it. I’m going to use my voice and the gift that god gave me to uplift my people as best as I can … I feel that we are being bold and I think that we’re being fearless and I just want us as entertainers to become part of that whole energy and that whole movement.”
Learn more about the Blackout Festival by visiting the website.