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The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) received a 2012 ArtPlace grant for a project called Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties. The program fosters collaboration between arts organizations and small-businesses in an effort to place arts programming at the heart of community building while simultaneously stimulating the local economy. Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties are a part of MoCADA’s Soul of Brooklyn initiative, which promotes the work of 32 African Diasporan arts organizations in the borough of Brooklyn.

ArtPlace spoke with Ryann Holmes, Director of Community Programming at MoCADA, about the Soul of Brooklyn initiative and the program’s goals for the coming year:

ARTPLACE: Why is this initiative important right now? And how is this programming responding to the sense of urgency that exists?

HOLMES: Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties provide a platform for cultural arts organizations, local businesses, artists, and community members to sustain and connect with each other in meaningful ways. The parties not only make art accessible and generate increased revenue for local businesses, but they honor and advocate for culture inspired by the African Diaspora. These block parties bring important visibility and dialogue to artists, arts organizations, and local businesses, while simultaneously tying them together in ways that are critical to the sustainability of the community and local economy.

Brooklyn is changing rapidly due to gentrification and new turns in economic development. The people in the borough are affected by these changes daily. Its all too common that people of color with less access to resources bear the brunt of these shifts. Local businesses owned by people of African descent suffer the most. These businesses are often the first to close under such circumstances. As neighborhoods shift, people in these communities are displaced from the homes that they grew up in, and artistic and cultural events inspired by the African Diaspora are lost. The Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties were created in direct response to the unfair challenges that appear when these kinds of changes take place in communities. Simultaneously and of equal importance, the Soul of Brooklyn Block Parties are a way to unite diverse neighbors through the arts during this time of change.”

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