Hunts Point Celebrates the Folked and the BAAD

by Donal Griffin

It´s hard to imagine that too many South Bronx neighborhoods are staging cultural events that look and sound like BlakTino, a series of performances that interweave the cultures of African-Americans, Latinos and gay New Yorkers.

One of BlakTino´s first events on October 8 was a somber show called “Short Memory/No History,” a short film about the legacy of ACT UP, the AIDS awareness movement that sprung to life in the 1980s. Peter Cramer and Jack Waters – who both have AIDS- turned the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!) performance space on Barretto Street into a bizarre living-room full of gay rights posters, piles of empty pill boxes and copies of gay publications that have long since gone under.

BlakTino is “kind of bringing the cultures together,” said Rice-Gonzalez, who worked with BAAD co-founder Arthur Aviles to bring the event to the stage. Rice-Gonzalez himself is the son of an African-American father and Puerto Rican mother. “There are events here where they overlap, where we kind of see intersections between black and Latino people, where we have juxtaposition.”

The festival moves from heavy material such as Short Memory/No History to Saturday´s Getting Folked, an evening event that Rice-Gonzalez cites as a perfect example of what the festival is all about. Sharing the bill were Retumba – an all-female Afro-Carribean dancing group from the South Bronx – and an East African troupe called Transworld Cultural Performance Art Ensembles.

The preceding evening presented ten dances set to the music of Nina Simone. “We´re not doing Nina Simone because we love her only,” said Rice-Gonzalez. “We´re doing her because of who she was as an activist, as a woman, what she did for civil rights. That connection of this artist who was also an activist.”

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