Seanloui Dumas is used to seeing packed performances, open mic nights and other events celebrating Arizona's Black artists through Black Renaissance, a series he started in 2019 when he noticed there weren't many Black History Month events in Tucson and none which focused on Black creatives.
While those gatherings are impossible this year, Black Renaissance is continuing to highlight the stories and work of Black artists through a new podcast released today, Feb. 1 and a streaming album available tomorrow, Feb. 2.
The Black artist community in Arizona and throughout Tucson spans all mediums including poetry, visual art, music, performance art and content creation — all areas that have been showcased through Black Renaissance's projects.
"It's incredibly diverse, our Black artist community makes up the Black community as a whole, so you get everyone from all walks of life, all pronouns, coming together and creating amazing artistry from eclectic to just straight forward," Dumas says.
The nine-episode Black Renaissance podcast series features 20-30 minute conversations with Black creatives who live across Arizona. Two to three episodes will be released each week in February.
Four of the episodes feature Tucsonans, including the first episode released today highlighting Marquez Johnson, faculty at the University of Arizona School of Dance and an instructor at Pima Community College.
"It's really finding out what makes them tick and finding who their inspirations are and what is their process, especially what have they been creating during this pandemic time," Dumas says of the podcast. "This time has disrupted all industries so it's really cool to see Black artists in Arizona continue to create this high level artistry."
A common influence among many of the artists interviewed for the podcast is their family, Dumas says.
"Someone influenced them, they had an aunt who danced, they had a brother who painted, they kind of followed in their footsteps and it has elevated their art," he says. "(The podcast) is kind of hitting every single area to really find out what makes them the amazing artist they are."
Black Renaissance The Album Vol. 1, a compilation album with 14 songs from eight different artists, will be released Feb. 2 and will be free to stream online. It includes music from Tucson's Cash Lansky, Mo-T, Mattea, Marbelite and Seanloui himself.
"Each artist is diverse and everything from super pop to instrumental music to hip hop and R&B to indie rock, so it's really eclectic," Dumas says.
Dumas says Black history and Black History Month haven't been widely celebrated in Arizona, but believes events and projects like Black Renaissance will soon become the norm and not the exception.
"I just don't think it's been part of the culture of the state. It took Arizona three times to even get Martin Luther King Jr. Day (to be a state holiday) even after the rest of the United States did it," he says. "What Black Renaissance is doing is literally making it part of the culture where people can't deny it or they can't avoid Black history.
Dumas says he thinks in a year or two "Black Renaissance will be one out of many organizations that are highlighting Black artists, celebrating Black History month ... making it part of a normal thing we do in Arizona and that we do it so well."
Visit the Black Renaissance website to listen to the latest podcast episodes and the streaming album.