Soul of Brooklyn 2014 Kicks Off

photo(1) Celebrating the best of Brooklyn at MoCADA's 5th Annual Soul of Brooklyn Festival kicked off on Sunday with events slated for the rest of the week. Featuring live music, arts workshops, performances, shopping, and film screenings throughout the borough! This week long series of events promotes African Diasporan arts and culture while supporting partnerships between local arts organizations and Black businesses.

I caught up with MoCADA's Community Programming Director, Ryann Holmes to get the deets on Soul of Brooklyn's value for our community, what she's most excited about and of course to get some style tips for you guys.

Ryann Holmes (RH): I would describe this year's lineup as really fresh, there's a lot of artists on here, if people don't know them they should really get a chance to. Folks are just some really talented musicians and everybody really seamlessly kind of flow with each other's sound.

GSL: Awesome. I know as the person planning it, so you're probably really excited about everything but is there anything or anyone that you're geeked about?

RH: Exactly, can I say that? I didn't want this to get out but I'm the most... I'm like... I'm really geeked about everything! I'm not going to lie, every single thing is just is about to be so fresh for the whole week. But I'm really geeked about Iman Omari; I've just been following him for a couple of years now and have just been a fan of like everything that he's doing. So I'm excited to see him on the Brooklyn stage and I'm really happy that I can be a part of that. Yeah I'm super excited about him, I feel like based on his music he's got to be a really awesome dude too.

GSL: Yeah that's great. I see that "Black Weirdo" is happening again this year. How was it last year and how do you think it's going to go down this year?

RH: It's going to be great. Thee Sat is my family, one of the other hats I wear aside from doing work here at MoCADA is I actually co-founded bklyn boihood. So we've partnered with them on this party quite a bit. I think this year is going to be the best year yet. We have the illest DJ lined up and there's a lot of friends and family and folks that we know that are coming from all over. I think it's going to be really, really dope, we're expecting to see a room full of eclectic looking, beautiful black and brown people.

GSL: I think that's one of the most enjoyable parts about Soul of Brooklyn and why people enjoy it so much because there's so many beautiful brown and black people having such an amazing time coming together. Speak on that.

RH: One of the most important things for MoCADA to do, is to nurture and continue to help build and connect community. One of the things that affirm us the most as a people is being able to celebrate each other, share space with each other, and listen to great music with each other. In light of gentrification, you walk into your favorite spot and it's all white out of nowhere. So it's becoming more and more important for us as an institution to create those spaces where we celebrate ourselves and be in a room full of other folks of African descent.

GSL: Definitely. Are there any other reasons that you think Soul of Brooklyn is so popular? I know that's probably one of the main reasons but are there any other reasons you think it's so important and so popular?

RH: I didn't know we were popular that's what's up. Folks trust MoCADA as an institution to always bring to light really amazing art and artists from every discipline. We're on the forefront and know what's going on on the music scene, the films that are coming out, it's our business to stay connected to the art world and make sure our folks are connected. People know it will be quality. They not only meet new people but they're introduced to new artists or see an artist they've been following on the low, who's kind of underground for a minute. But we're always trying to cultivate those things and people trust us by now to bring them a good show and a great events.

GSL: Great. You kind of touched on this before with gentrification happening but what are some other reasons that you think Soul of Brooklyn is so important for the community?

RH: One of the biggest drivers of this festival is the connection to black owned businesses in Brooklyn. Just about every event takes place in or in partnership with a black owned of people of color owned business. Supporting or just finding ways to connect with those businesses and business owners is super crucial. Because there aren't that many platforms for artist and arts organizations or just community in general to make sure that we're supporting our black businesses. Back in the day I remember my mom, she grew up in DC and she would talk about the 70s where everywhere she shopped was black. Black grocery stores, black doctor, black pharmacist and all that. And for a million reasons, it's just not typical of our lives sometimes to be able to do that. So I think any way we can promote our own businesses and support them is super crucial to us remaining in Brooklyn and existing and thriving in light of all the shifts and changes that are happening around us. So I think that's just one of the most important things to do.

GSL: That's awesome. Can't wait to come out and support. On a lighter note, style and fashion is a really big part of Soul of Brooklyn. So what style tips do you have for our readers for when they're coming out this week.?

RH: Our whole thing, it's funny, people say that often about coming in our spaces. Like everybody is so fly, but it's just everyone should be themselves. Be your best self, come in what makes you feel the most awesome because you're going to be in a safe space. So we just encourage people to be as weird or not as they are and however they want to express themselves. This whole festival is about celebrating our expression. So we just want to encourage people to do that and we're just one of the fliest groups of people on the planet so it will always turn out dope.

GSL: I love that! Is there anything else you want readers to know?

RH: Yeah the one thing I'd love to say is we are also... we're doing a campaign right now called 100 reasons to get to MoCADA. So as we're putting out all the dope programming and new shows and all this stuff. We're also a nonprofit black institution in America trying to survive. So I guess I would encourage people to definitely come out and support but if they want us to sustain to really consider becoming a friend of MoCADA member. And helping us to maintain the level at which we feel our people deserve to have all these amazing things. So encouraging people to give and stay plugged in.

With the recent events in , attending these events can be a much needed break from feeling helpless and trapped.

Find out more about this week's events here.