Black Kid Joy: A program to creatively inspire Black Calgary youth

In efforts to enrich the community and inspire cultural pride, Black Kid Joy brings a free artistic program to black youth

Back Kid Joy is designed to enrich the artistic lives of black youth, empower them, and inspire pride in their culture. | BLACK KID JOY, FACEBOOK

A group of multidisciplinary artists have come together to bring joy to black youth in Calgary.

Black Kid Joy is founded by MelVee X, a spoken word artist, photographer, and burlesque performer. It’s a program meant to inspire and help future black artists grow and thrive.

The program is free for youth aged 13-19, and will take place online from July 20 – July 31. Register here before June 15 to participate – the program can accept up to 30 participants

This is the first year the program will be running, after MelVee applied for and received a grant from Calgary Arts Development in 2019.

“I wanted to create the program I didn’t have when I was growing up as a black youth and queer black youth.” she said

“There was nothing for me in terms of seeing myself represented.”

With Black Kid Joy, MelVee is seeking to change that narrative for today’s black youth. She wants to give them a future that feels brighter than hers did.

Participants will learn a multitude of artistic practices and foundations, all rooted within Black culture.

“My personal hope for the Black Kid Joy program is that the youth are able to envision a different future for themselves,” said MelVee.

“And that they’re able to view themselves as artists and as creators, and to have a foundation in artistic practice that’s rooted in their blackness.”

Multidisciplinary artistic opportunities for program participants

The facilitating artists are from a plethora of different artistic backgrounds, such as spoken word and poetry, DJ-ing, visual and digital media art, special FX, performance art, and even fashion.

With MelVee is Ebony Gooden, Adetola Adedipe (also known as aloT of Poetry), Lanre Ajayi, and DeVery Bess.

DeVery Bess is the Drag King name that Dev Nicoll-Ellis goes by, and they jumped at the chance to be involved in Black Kid Joy.

Nicoll-Ellis has experience working with youth and the arts, so they are looking forward to working on this program.

“I’m excited to see the art that the kids will create,” they said.

“That’s the most fun thing I can [think of] as a mentor. I enjoy seeing them start from an idea and finally make the final product of it.”

Each artist involved will likely mentor one or two youth — depending on the numbers — while also providing workshops.

After the 10-day program, the youth artists will be paid to showcase their creations.

“That’s something I felt really strongly about,” MelVee said.

“Pay the young people now to show them that their work is valuable, and that they should be expecting to be compensated for their work.”

Bringing joy to contrast hard times.

At a time of such unrest and strain for the black community, this program is all the more important.

While the intention is not to take away from the severity of the current situation, Black Kid Joy is aimed at helping youth celebrate their culture and heritage.

“There can be so much of a focus on black suffering and trauma that it’s forgotten that we are fighting to live and to thrive,” said MelVee

“To me, having black joy and Black Kid Joy be at the forefront really is about highlighting what we’re fighting for, which is our brilliance and our majesty.”

To learn more about the Black Kid Joy program you can follow it on Facebook. To register, follow this link.

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