Existing While Black
Marrying the arts and activism is no rarity globally or locally. Though Asheville is viewed as a quaint little southern tourist attraction, it is budding and overflowing with “art-i-vism.”  Artivism is a portmanteau combining art and activism, and artivism is one more treasurable thing that makes Asheville a mountain of great potential.

This Sunday, April 2, at THE BLOCK off Biltmore, my si-star and co-laborer in activism and community jewel Nicole Townsend will be electrifying the historic space with the language, emotion and prophesy of contemporary black artivism.

Nicole is a mixed-race woman who has a unique way of navigating the complexity of her racial identity in American, and even movement spaces. She is a quiet storm that channels tremendous inner intelligence, and a radical underscoring, to evoke listeners and learners beyond admiration of the aesthetics of word play to raised awareness about “blackness” and “whiteness.”

On Sunday at 5:30 pm Nicole will do just that; performing a daring one woman show titled, Existing While Black. Nicole is a courageous heart and I’m please to be complementing her artistry by hosting this mega event. Nicole and I met around the time I launched Date My City – lots of our personal dreams have manifested since our beginnings, and I’m glad to call her my friend. Come celebrate with us Sunday evening!

Existing While Black
We Shall Overcome
In other news, but very much native to the infusion of local black art/culture and activism, Date My City was recently awarded a “We Shall Overcome” grant from the Highlander Research and Eduction Center!

This accomplishment served as a lifeline and affirmation during a time when I was struggling to give birth to DMCs next initiative. Date My City applied for this same grant a year ago, searching for funding for The Black Sabbatical and Leadership Retreat, but my proposal was denied. This year the grant committee reached out to me to apply. I notified them that the sabbatical/retreat proposed them in January 2016 was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, administrated through Buncombe County’s Health & Human Services Tipping Point mini-grants. The retreat happened in August of last year and was a great success.

For this year’s Highlander proposal, I rolled out a follow up event to the sabbatical/retreat which will be called TESTIFY. For this event, we will invite a broader audience of black community members to witness the testimony of growth and transformation from select participants who attended the retreat. They will express what healing and discovery was catalyzed individually and collectively during the sabbatical. Much like the electrifying black church experience, there will be an artistic showcasing of spoken word, visual art, movement, freedom songs and other artistic forms between testimonials. Stay tuned for more details about TESTIFY!

Thank you again for your continued support of Date My City.


Sheneika Smith

Written by datemycity