Announcing the 2023 Take Notice Fund Awardees

November 29, 2023  •  22 minute read

Detail from Diamonds and Pearls by Angel Perdomo, 64 in x 54 in, acrylic on canvas, 2022

The National Performance Network is thrilled to announce the third cohort of the Take Notice Fund, honoring artists of color in Louisiana. NPN envisions a world in which artists of color living and working in the South have the power, resources, and opportunities to thrive. The Take Notice Fund is part of NPN’s Southern Programs and expands upon this critical vision for the South.

In the Fall of 2023, the Take Notice Fund is awarding $5,000 grants to 30 artists and culture bearers of color living and working in Louisiana. Grant funds are unrestricted and intended to support an artist’s creative practice and/or well-being. The fund seeks to allow artists to determine that they need to thrive creatively, professionally, and personally.

“This grant recognizes that an artist or culture bearer’s practice is supported by many components of that artist’s life,” says NPN Director of Southern Programs Stephanie Atkins. “It’s not just being in the studio. We give these unrestricted funds so they can determine how to direct those funds, to support what they need to spend this money on so they can get closer to doing this work.”

The Take Notice Fund honors artists throughout Louisiana whose bodies of work represent excellence, dedication to their practices, and contributions to this country’s discourse about racial justice and cultural preservation. Atkins underscored, “Each grant round introduces me to more Louisiana artists and culture bearers whose work pushes boundaries. This year’s artist grantees are investigating content and subject matter that are challenging and visceral for themselves and their audiences. Today, we are experiencing a moment when BIPOC artists and culture bearers are unapologetic for being direct and complicated and are significant contributors to the field. And Louisiana artists and culture bearers stand shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the field.”

By focusing on Louisiana, NPN aims to deepen the pool of direct funding opportunities for artists in our state. Take Notice Fund is supported with funding from the Ford Foundation’s Creativity and Free Expression program. As part of an explicit commitment to the American South, the Ford Foundation has provided more than $175 million since 2016 to Southern organizations “who are advancing justice at a moment of historic opportunity.”

“There is an immense need to increase philanthropy to reach artists and arts organizations in the American South,” says Lane Harwell, who is on the Creativity and Free Expression team at Ford Foundation. “Ford is proud to support Take Notice Fund as it’s one critical effort to uplift underrepresented voices and increase geographic equity in the distribution of arts funding to ensure vital creative voices are heard.”

Ford Foundation, Creativity and Free Expression Overview
Logo for Take Notice Fund

Introducing the 2023 Take Notice Fund Awardees

John Alleyne

New Orleans, LA

“I am originally from the island of Barbados, currently based in New Orleans. In total, I have been living in Louisiana since 2015. I migrated to Brooklyn, NY at the age of sixteen. While in Brooklyn, I became immediately drawn to Hip-Hop culture and the expressive quality of Street and Graffiti art. Since then, my practice has been rooted in connecting lived experience with an intuitive process of silkscreen mark-making. In the summer of 2018,” I graduated from Louisiana State University with an MFA in Studio Art with a concentration in painting and drawing. I have been an Artist-in-Residence at Ox-Bow in Saugatuck, Michigan, ACRE in Steuben, WI, and a Fellow at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass, CO. My work was also featured in featured in Issue #23 of The Hand Magazine, in addition to volumes of Studio Visit Magazine, and New American Paintings (South Issue), 225 Magazine, Savannah Now, and Carvd N Stone Magazine. I am also a member of Baton Rouge Gallery, Good Children in New Orleans, and Sulfur Studios in Savannah Georgia.

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Lino Yerima Asana

New Orleans, LA / Oakland, CA

Lino Yerima Asana is an Ambazonian American filmmaker currently living and working in Oakland and New Orleans. His films often explore and celebrate themes of black dynamism, identity, and transnationalism. Some of his films and videos have been featured by Okay Africa, Bitter Southerner, Nowness, and Indiewire and screened at several film festivals, including Cannes Court Métrage and Black Star. In addition to developing his first feature film, The Parking Lot Attendant (An SFFILM Rainin 2019 Screenwriting Grant Finalist), Asana is currently in post-production on a documentary that intimately explores the contribution of black chefs and humble cooks in the New Orleans food industry.

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Romeo Bougere and Jermaine Bossier / 79ers Gang

New Orleans, LA

Big Chief Romeo Bougere of the 9th Ward Hunters Indian Gang and Big Chief Jermaine Bossier of the 7th Ward Creole Hunter Indian Gang have deep roots in New Orleans’s rich music history. Bougere’s father, Rudy Bougere, was the founder and Big Chief of the 9th Ward Hunters. Romeo began masking with him at age 4, assuming leadership at 17. Jermaine Bossier is part of a Black Masking family as well. He grew up singing in the church, and is the grandson of Raymond Lewis, an important musical figure in New Orleans R&B. He began masking at 14, first with the Yellow Pocahontas, and then with Trouble Nation, before forming the 7th Ward Creole Hunters. In 2014, the two rival chiefs signed a peace treaty and recorded their debut Fire on the Bayou, followed by the single “Wrong Part of Town” in 2017—both with traditional chants and instrumentation. This would be the birth of the 79rs Gang.

Headshots of Romeo Bougere and Jermaine Bossier

Zandashé Brown

New Orleans, LA

Zandashé Brown is a New Orleans-based writer/director born and bred in and inspired by southern Louisiana. Her work raises a Black femme lens to the tradition of Southern Gothic Horror by exploring the axis of self-excavation, spirituality, and lived experience in the American South. Zandashé is a 2022 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and Directors Lab fellow for her feature-in-development, THE MATRIARCH. She was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film for 2022.

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LaTasha Bundy

New Orleans, LA

LaTasha Bundy is a composer and electronic music performer from New Orleans. Every piece of music she makes is informed in one way or another by her heritage of being from Louisiana. She mostly works with electronics but was a jazz musician for years learning from the greats like Clyde Kerr Jr., Kidd Jordan, and compositionally from Roger Dickerson. LaTasha has performed her compositions with the Louisiana Philharmonic and has had compositions played in Los Angeles and at Lincoln Center in New York. If asked what she does in the music world, she’ll answer: “I make beep boops with my computer.”

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Nicole Collins

New Orleans, LA

“I’m an award-winning filmmaker, actor, and host from Alexandria, Louisiana. My journey began by embracing storytelling and challenging norms, fueled by my small-town upbringing. I see the world as an untold story, aiming to entertain, inspire, and spark conversations on diverse experiences. As a filmmaker, I create impactful worlds for a broad audience, prioritizing diversity, ethics, and marginalized voices. I’ve hosted Q93’s top weekend slot for 8 years, emceed for the New Orleans Pelicans for 6 years, and acted in HBO’s Treme, Twelve Years a Slave, and Carry On. I’ve also hosted for organizations like the NBA and Essence Festival. I’ve written, directed, and produced over 20 independent films, focusing on Black women’s healing and liberation. In 2016, I founded LOVEYours, a public speaking workshop for young Black girls, and organized events for Black women’s maternal mental health. I also serve as the community liaison for Black Bayou, work with Women Make Movies, and hold board positions with Dreamseeker Foundation and NOVAC, where I’m board president.”

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paris cyan cian

New Orleans, LA

paris cyan cian is a New Orleans Black girl playing, composing, and honoring through embodied ceremonial practice in nature and beyond. As a movement architect, educator, and curator working with and through various interdisciplinary forms of dance, drawing, film, photography, and sound, cyan’s creative work mobilizes embodied memory and ecological play into a worldmaking practice. Performance exhibitions/installations, practices, and organizing include Common Healing, T. Lang Dance, Liberated Planet Studio, The Black School, and more. cyan cian received her BFA/BA in Dance with a concentration in social justice, and gender women’s studies from Hollins University (2018) and Master of Fine Arts in Choreography at Roehampton University, London, UK (2021).

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Cedric Dent Jr.

Metairie, LA

“I am a self-taught photographer born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. Captivated by the idea of capturing Black American Life, I found a profound love for highlighting the beauty in everyday life. I believe my work exists for people to see a reflection of themselves in a positive light. Through my lens, I find hope and inspiration by amplifying the dignity and humanity of everyday people and providing a voice to the voiceless.”

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Christian Dinh

New Orleans, LA

“I am a Vietnamese-American ceramic artist from St. Petersburg, Florida. I received my B.A. in 2016 from the University of West Florida in Pensacola and was nominated for the International Sculpture Center’s Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. I relocated to New Orleans in 2018. I received my M.F.A. at Tulane University, and my work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, Ceramic Monthly, The Times-Picayune, and Adore Magazine. My ceramic and sculptural work has been in numerous exhibitions, including PHILIC /PHOBIC at the Pensacola Museum of Art, Focus Spotlight: Nail Salon at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, Louisiana, GBA House Party Vol. 1 at 3.1 Phillip Lim in New York, NY, Trăm Năm Sống Thọ at the Carroll Gallery in New Orleans, Louisiana, and more. I will be exhibiting at the Ohr O’Keefe Museum in Biloxi, Mississippi, in the winter of 2023.”

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Imani Gaudin

New Orleans, LA / New York, NY

Born and raised in New Orleans, LA, Imani Gaudin completed her pre-professional training at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and graduated from the Conservatory of Dance at Purchase College, SUNY where she created many works including a dance film. She attended training programs including The Ailey School, Dance Theatre of Harlem, and The Juilliard School, and studied abroad at Amsterdam University of the Arts Academie Voor Theater en Dans. She has also had the pleasure of performing works by Amos Ben-Tal, Rena Butler, Roderick George, Nicole Beutler, Ohad Naharin, and Loni Landon among many others. Imani is currently a freelance artist traveling between New Orleans and New York, and the director of the start-up non-profit, Gaudanse. She aspires to create accessible and affordable collaborative spaces for all artists alike while exploring what it means to delve deep into how movement languages bring forth new ideas and translate to what we call dance.

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Carl Harrison Jr.

New Orleans, LA

Carl Harrison Jr. is an accomplished independent director, writer, and producer known for his documentary and narrative fiction films exploring race, music, and southern cultural traditions. His short films have been screened at major festivals and galleries across the United States, including the New Orleans Film Festival, Seattle Black Film Festival, and others. In 2017, he was recognized as an Emerging Voice by the New Orleans Film Society. Harrison’s directorial debut, Straight Line, powerfully addresses racial dehumanization and was distributed on Alaskan Airline Flights in January 2021. His second short, Spy Boy Dow, explores the indigenous black masking culture of New Orleans. Currently, he’s working on Eve’s Garden, supported by a 2019 Research and Development grant from the Southern Documentary Fund. Harrison’s work tackles important issues and highlights his exceptional filmmaking talent.

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A.J. Haynes

Shreveport, LA

“I’m a Black & Filipina queer femme musical artist, educator, and reproductive justice advocate. I lead the genre-expansive soul power band Seratones, which has gained national and international acclaim, including a nomination for Best Soul/Funk Record from the American Association of Independent Music. With over a decade of experience in reproductive justice, I’m a member of the Grammy Recording Academy’s Black Artist Collective, a leader in the Songwriters/Composers wing, and the Memphis Chapter’s Secretary. Born in Japan and raised in rural Columbia, Louisiana, I developed my deep connection to music through church singing. I’ve spent over two decades in Shreveport, bridging DIY punk clubs, underground art spaces, blues jams, and gospel choirs, crafting my unique and evolving style. I revel in full-bellied laughter. I love fiercely. I sing because I’m free.”

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Ana Hernandez

New Orleans, LA

Ana Hernandez is an Indigenous, European, and African-descended artist born and raised on Klamath/Modoc ancestral homelands currently living and working in Bulbancha (also known as New Orleans, Louisiana). She is a co-founding member of Level Artist Collective and has been nominated for and awarded artist residencies by the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans. In addition to international exhibitions and shows across the country, her work has been exhibited throughout New Orleans in places such as the New Orleans Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art among others.

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High Heal Doula

New Orleans, LA

High Heal Doula, HHD, is a mother, poet, emcee, birth worker, multimedia content creator, and healer from New Orleans, LA whose artistry is motivated by the needs of the community. As both a survivor of Hurricane Katrina and a graduate of Howard University, HHD is deeply interested in curating space to heal the collective consciousness of the community. She seeks to align the eye with the I, which simply means to align what one sees in the media and hears through her with how they view themselves. She aspires to travel the world spreading love and healing frequencies through her music, her food, her birth work, her films, her cultural programming, and her writings.

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Benicia King

Grambling, LA

Born in Washington State, but raised in Grambling, LA by a Los Angeles single mother, photographer, photo editor, and businesswoman, Benicia King has multiple cultural influences that reflect upon her work. With her family’s bicoastal legacy, she creates from an ethereal place combining her experiences of entertainment, portraiture, and fine art to discuss identity, black & southern culture, and family history. Her strong use of shadows and light reflects her perspective of embracing all facets of human Beings. While earning her BA in Photography and Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California and Grambling State University, the 29-year-old has received the Visual Arts Award in 2019 from the Fine Arts Club of Pasadena and was included in previous exhibitions at the Masur Museum, New Orleans African American Museum, Stella Jones Gallery, and more.

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New Orleans, LA

LaReezy is New Orleans-born and raised. At four years old, he embarked on his musical journey when his Michael Jackson’s impersonation captivated family and friends at gatherings. Over time, the impersonation list expanded to include his favorite rappers and himself. At ten years old, Lareezy began writing songs; at fourteen, he began recording and producing original music. He has performed on many stages, including the French Quarter Festival and the New Orleans Pelicans pregame show. Lareezy has been recognized by the Jefferson Parish City Council and the 7th Ward Neighborhood Association as a positive role model. His music has over 400,000 streams and has performed in front of more than 40 live audiences. He has recently finished REEBORN, a full self-produced coming-of-age album that serves as an audio and visual offering of support and empowerment for teenagers and other listeners facing similar challenges and obstacles.

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Cherise Janae Lockett

New Orleans, LA

“I’m a multi-medium artist. For 10 years, I was a photographer and graphic artist. I’ve always had a passion for fashion, so I later taught myself to sew. I became a Babydoll in 2019 so there was a natural progression for me to begin creating regalia for myself and other Babydolls. I carried my own vision about how to express and experience being a Babydoll, so I created my own group in 2021. I’ve done four fashion shows including the latest at Luna Fete 2022 and was featured on CNN’s New Year’s Eve Show. I have participated in and dressed over 10 Babydolls for major Mardi Gras Krewe parades. I have done weddings, events, and portraits. I am also a painter and have exhibited my paintings at The Healing Center. I was an art teacher at Anna’s Arts for Kids tasked with collaborating with a group of over 30 children to create artwork reflecting conflict resolution possibilities and remedies for the City of New Orleans.”

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Denise Walter McConduit

New Orleans, LA

“I was born and raised in New Orleans and from a family of thirteen children. I began writing poetry at an early age and studied fine arts at Xavier University, but as I got older, I fell in love with creative writing. My first magazine article was published in Black New Orleans magazine in the 1970’s. Later, I had articles published in Essence Magazine and the New Orleans Tribune. My writing reflects my appreciation of cultural traditions through family stories. These traditions are important to me; it’s how I grew up and it’s the focus of most of my work. My first Children’s book, D.J. and the Zulu Parade depicts the adventures of my son, “D.J” when he got a chance to ride in a Mardi Gras Parade. That book led to two other stories about my intrepid son: D.J. and the Jazz Fest and D.J. and the Debutante Ball. I also wrote, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Read to inspire children to develop a healthy relationship with reading. I strongly believe that writing culturally rich books is essential because it’s important for children to see themselves in literature. My latest book, Claudia and the Storm is a middle-grade chapter book that shares the story of two sisters separated from their family during Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath. I believe that these types of stories are important to preserve the narratives of our culture. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, I wrote a weekly column for the Times-Picayune newspaper, titled “The Gentilly Warriors” focusing on the recovery of my neighborhood. I earned a BA in English from the University of New Orleans in 2009, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University in 2020.”

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Cristina Molina

New Orleans, LA

Cristina Molina, originally from Miami and currently based in New Orleans, is a visual artist and Associate Professor and Gallery Director at Southeastern Louisiana University. Her work, which spans performance, video installation, photography, and textile design, focuses on identity, loss, and disappearing landscapes in environmentally precarious settings. Molina’s art, rooted in magical realism, reshapes lesser-known narratives, and frequently involves collaborative projects with The Crystal Efemmes, a feminist collective. She also curated and co-organized The Front’s annual film festival during her 2014-20 tenure with the New Orleans artist-run project. She has received various awards, including the 2018 President’s Award for Excellence in Artistic Activity and the Viola Brown Endowed Professorship in Visual and Dramatic Arts from 2020-22. Her recent accolades include fellowships at the Artist in Residence in Everglades program and the Joan Mitchell Center, as well as project support from several organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has been exhibited in various institutions, such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and more.

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Stephen Montalvo

New Orleans, LA

Stephen Montalvo is a New Orleans-based active composer, performer of acoustic and electronic music, and audiovisual installation artist. Through his music, he explores resonance and rhythmic interplay, works to promote equity in artistic experiences by creating agency for performers and audiences, and draws inspiration from social, ecological, and political concerns. He has received commissions from Sabertooth Swing, who featured Le Dormeur du Val on their 2022 experimental history album Delta Bound, the Louisiana Music Teachers Association, the Louis Moreau Institute for New Music Performance, and the Winnfield Ensemble, among others. His works have been performed by nationally and internationally recognized artists and ensembles. Installations and audiovisual collaborations include projects for LUNA (Light Up NOLA Arts) Fête and SALON Gallery by Arts New Orleans, Supernova by the Friends of Lafitte Greenway, Sound Collage by the New Orleans Jazz Museum, and more. As a percussionist, Stephen has performed with the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra among others. He currently performs nationally with Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium as well as in New Orleans with various local performers.

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Louise Mouton Johnson

New Orleans, LA

“I am a visual artist and retired art educator, born and educated in New Orleans. In 1972, I entered Newcomb College majoring in Fine Arts. In 1974, I transferred to Xavier University of Louisiana for more personalized instruction at a historically Black college or university. After graduating cum laude in 1976 with a BFA, I went to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, and earned my MFA in 1980 specializing in printmaking. I taught art in New Orleans Public Schools for 33 years, including 14 years at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. In 2001, I transferred, assisting with building the art department program at NOCCA Academy, where I remained until Hurricane Katrina. From August 2006 until June 2012, I taught general art and Talented Visual Arts (TAV), at Audubon Charter School, then became Eleanor McMain Secondary School’s TAV instructor until I retired in 2016. Since retiring, I have continued to practice professionally, exhibit, and sell my work. My prints, drawings, and quilts are in the permanent collections of The City of New Orleans (through commissions from the Arts Council of New Orleans), Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Amistad Research Center, and private collections. I’ve designed album covers with Rounder Records, book covers by New Orleans authors, and the official 1990 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Poster. Recently, I have been experimenting with fiber, bookmaking, and quilt-making as part of my artistic expression. From February through July 2018, I was one of 10 New Orleans artists selected as an Artist-in- Residence at the Joan Mitchell Center, where I was able to complete a cohesive series of works, including a major collaborative mixed-media commission. I am currently participating in a group exhibit entitled “Unthinkable Imagination: A Creative Response to the Juvenile Justice Crisis” at the Newcomb Art Museum of Tulane University.”

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Angel Perdomo

New Orleans, LA

Angel Perdomo was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras in 1989, but is now based in New Orleans after relocating in 1996. He received his Bachelor of Arts in painting and printmaking from the University of New Orleans in May 2013. Angel has been in several juried exhibitions in New Orleans and across the country. and has he is a member of the Antenna Collective which is in the St. Claude Art District in New Orleans.

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MacKenzie Rosenberg

New Orleans, LA

“I have been a performer, instructor, mentor, and community leader through dance, theater and rollerskating. My love for art began in my hometown, Louisville, Kentucky, where I became a street dancer at age 13. Throughout high school and my early adulthood, I performed with a small dance crew and frequented a regular poetry open mic performing short poems. Aware of the limiting opportunities for the arts in Louisville, I moved to Louisiana to join the already lush artist community In New Orleans in 2006. Once I arrived, I committed to finding a new dance community to grow in. I founded and was the lead choreographer for the CND Asylum street performance group and performed salsa professionally with Liquid Rhythm Inc. I returned to school at Delgado Community College, and quickly received a six-semester full scholarship to Dillard University where I majored and received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology in 2014. In 2012, Dancing Grounds co-founder Jessica Donley tapped me to perform in a short performance piece that debuted at the “Southern Voices” showcase. For the past eight years, I have served as PreK-8 Youth Programs Manager at Dancing Grounds as well as acting as the lead choreographer and coordinator for “The Squad”, Dancing Grounds’ performance troupe. Additionally, I’ve shared stages with various New Orleans dance and theater entities including The NOLA Project, Goat In The Road Productions, KM Dance Project, and more.”

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Dominic Scott

New Orleans, LA

Dominic Scott is a 25-year-old storyteller/director/artist born in New Orleans and raised in Avondale. He has worked with Grammy-winning musicians PJ Morton, Sevyn Streeter and Ambré. He’s performed at the ESSENCE Festival, BUKU, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival. At the end of 2022, Scott released his debut mixtape titled Color Theory, inspired by the range of human emotion tied to sound and color. Scott has merged the talents of his blues musician father with his own John Legend/Eric Bellinger-esque take on rhythm and blues and his mom’s love of gospel. Scott’s music is emblematic of his interest in expanding the realms of what a genre can — and should — be capable of. In pursuit of limitless creation, Scott has honed the singing chops first developed as a child in his church choir and father’s recording studio, and crafted for himself a mature, vulnerable, colorful, and mood-driven body of work.

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Sha’Condria iCon Sibley

New Orleans, LA

“Birthed through the Red River waters of Central Louisiana and the only child of my parents to survive outside the womb, I am an intentional, purposeful, faith-spirited, multi-inspired artist currently based in New Orleans for the past 25 years. A daughter of the Southern Missionary Baptist church tradition, I learned early the art and the power of oration, faith, and healing. With a graduate-level educational background in maternal and child health and an interest in the use of art as medicine, most of my work seeks to help heal, uplift, and liberate the [Blk] Woman and inner child, first within myself and then into the world. A multiple-time national poetry slam champion, viral spoken word artist, published poet, writer, performing and visual artist, teaching artist, and auntie/advocate for ‘little Blk girls with big names’, my work spans across the page, stage, canvas, theater, music, talk radio, and short film. I share the gift of poetry and creative writing as a healing and liberation tool inside prisons, juvenile detention centers, schools, and universities, and have worked for over a decade (and counting) creating, organizing, and hosting arts-driven events. I appeared on TV One’s Verses and Flow, have performed mainstage at numerous festivals including Essence Music Festival, and my work has been featured on many platforms including Huffington Post, For Harriet, Teen Vogue, and more. I am featured on multiple recording projects alongside Grammy Award-winning artists. Currently, I am the 2022-23 Dr. Doris Derby Creative Spark Awardee with Junebug Productions in New Orleans, Central Louisiana (Cenla) Author of the Month, and the author of My Name Is Pronounced Holy: A Collection of Poems, Prayers, Rememberings, and Reclamations.

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Jeremy Stevenson, 2nd Chief of the Monogram Hunters Indian Tribe

New Orleans, LA

“I was born into this culture. As a kid, going to Holy Redeemer Catholic School, we were taught how to draw faces in the First Grade. My art teacher Mr. Juan told me that I was ‘special.’ After he said that to me, I knew exactly who I was (an artist). From there, I began to draw on my fathers’ poster boards at our home in the Seventh Ward of New Orleans. At that time, my dad was a Spyboy for the Yellow Pocahontas Mardi Gras Indian Tribe. One night, my dad came home from work and witnessed that special gift that has been embedded in me since the age of 6. In 1991, I masked my first year with my dad’s tribe, the Monogram Hunter, at the age of eleven. The following year my dad allowed me to create my suit on my own. By the time I was 16 years old, I became Lil Chief and led the tribe that year. After leading the tribe, the Indian Nation became aware of Lil Chief Pie and my artwork has been seen all across New Orleans.”

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Ivan Watkins

New Orleans, LA

“Born and raised in New Orleans, I am an internationally recognized artist, filmmaker, ethno-historian, and a respected participant in the Masking tradition as WildMan of the Golden Feather Hunters Tribe of New Orleans Black Indians. I graduated from Brother Martin H.S. and the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (BFA), University of Chicago (MA-Social Science), and (abd/PhD) in Ethno-History/Urban Studies at the University of New Orleans. Since 1989, I have led more than 50 community-based large public art projects and produced numerous large and small-scale outdoor/indoor murals, mosaics, and sculptures nationally and internationally. Committed to offering social catharsis through cultural arts, and public arts education, my work has engaged many cultural communities through arts education, ethnographic research, public events, and more avenues. I have produced a host of documentaries in varying stages of completion including ZAMBO – African and Native American Cultural Survival, The Blackheart Man, and Success in the Making. I have focused research on identity maintenance of “Black Indians” in the U.S., Caribbean, and Northeastern Brazil by teaching Capoeira Angola, Bumba Meu Boi, and the Quilombolas Tambor de Criollo traditions of Carnival. I have also masked with Black Masking Indians of New Orleans since 2005.

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Sly Watts

New Orleans, LA

Sly Watts was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. He develops music, large-scale illustrations, paintings, and animations that depict the rhythm and motion of people and places. The son of a New Orleans percussionist and music producer, Sly’s earliest musical memories are in his dad’s make-shift studio before it was lost in Hurricane Katrina. After his family evacuated to Dallas, and being assigned writing prompts in elementary school, his elementary school teacher noticed his writing in rhyme about Hurricane Katrina and encouraged him to continue. He also drew complete character narratives that placed a version of himself inside his imagined worlds. When the family moved back to New Orleans, Sly’s mom purchased an electric piano and he began playing repeating riffs and a synthesis of his visual art and storytelling began to take shape. As his passion continued to deepen, Sly’s father allowed him to use his digital audio software to make his beats and samples. As a sophomore in high school, his father gave him a looper that came with a version of Ableton Live and opened him to a more professional realm of sonic composition. He then taught himself several other creative and professional skills, including graphic design, illustration, and animation. He has had work published in various zines and is currently featured in Kristina K. Robinson’s “The Matrix of Creativity: Where the River Meets the Sea,” the most recent edition of “Welcome to the Afrofuture” at the New Orleans African American Museum. He is an exhibiting member of the Front Gallery and is the Digital Media assistant at the Joan Mitchell Foundation. He performs regularly in and around the Gulf South and is releasing his first vinyl LP on Sinking City Records in the fall of 2023.

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Chasah West and Charliese West

Lafayette, LA

Sisters Chasah West and Charliese West are film writer-directors. Originally of Louisiana Creole heritage, they have lived in Lafayette for the past decade, but grew up in South Africa, Zambia, and various states within the USA. Their unconventional childhood growing up abroad influences their screenwriting, which explores culture, heritage, and class. The duo’s love of blockbuster genre films fuels their passion to play with the boundaries of reality within their own stories. Their features, pilots, and shorts, led by characters of color, blend theme-driven stories with action-adventure, sci-fi, and fantasy concepts. While both obtaining master’s degrees in communications, the sisters gained production experience on indie films and commercial ad sets, before beginning their self-taught screenwriting journey. In 2022, they co-directed their first short film, Héritage. A handful of the West Sisters’ short and feature scripts have been placed in screenwriting contests and film festivals. Notably, they were 2nd rounders in the 2021 Austin Film Festival’s short script category and finalists in the 2022 Phoenix Film Festival Short Screenplay Competition. Most recently, their writing and directing earned them a spot in the 2023 New Orleans Film Society’s Emerging Voices Directors Lab.

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Big Chief Shaka Zulu of the Golden Feathers Hunters

New Orleans, LA

“Born and raised in the vibrant city of New Orleans, I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by the rich traditions and vibrant artistic expressions that define our community. My father, Zohar Israel, taught me and my siblings the art of stilt dancing. From an early age, I immersed myself in the captivating world of Black Masking Indian culture, studying under the esteemed Big Chief Allison Tootie Montana of the Yellow Pocahantas Tribe and embracing the responsibility of the Spy Boy position. This invaluable experience shaped my understanding of the importance of cultural continuity, the power of storytelling, and the profound connection between art and community. Driven by a thirst for knowledge and a deep respect for global cultural traditions, I embarked on transformative journeys in Brazil and various parts of Africa, studied under master stilt walkers, and immersed myself in the meaningful cultural contexts. My exploration of African drumming led me to the vibrant nation of Senegal, where I studied under esteemed drummers, immersing myself in the rhythms, techniques, and spiritual dimensions of this ancient tradition. This experience not only honed my skills as a master drummer but also deepened my understanding of the cultural significance and communal power that drumming holds within African communities. The rhythmic heartbeat of the drum became a guiding force in my artistic journey, driving me to create performances that transcend mere entertainment and resonate with the soul. A master of African beading, I have had the privilege of learning this intricate art form from master culture bearers. This art form serves as a visual language, telling stories of our shared history, spirituality, and cultural identity.

Headshot of Big Chief Shaka Zulu