The Native Arts and Cultures Foundation (NACF) is celebrating the experiences of Black-Indigenous/Afro-Indigenous people with a webinar The Black-Indigenous/Afro-Indigenous Experience as part of our Black Lives Matter webinar series. We will be examining the relationships between black and Native cultural identities, notions of community recognition, artistic practice and activism. It is a community that many have yet to fully understand. Thousands of people in the United States identify as Black-Indigenous/Afro-Indigenous, having both indigenous and African American lineages. Their lives raise important questions about conceptions of indigeneity, revealing the complex and often vexed relationships between cultures in the Americas. Audiences will have the opportunity to explore the work of these artists, culture bearers and activists who, through their practices, act as catalyzing agents in our communities and challenge legacies of colonial disempowerment. The artists will reflect upon their roles as leaders in an era of the Black Lives Matter movement during a time of great social and political turmoil.
NATALIE BALL (Black, Modoc, Klamath) – she/her
Artist – Chiloquin, OR
Natalie Ball was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She has a Bachelor’s degree with a double major in Ethnic Studies and Art from the University of Oregon. She furthered her education in New Zealand at Massey University where she attained her Master’s degree, focusing on Indigenous contemporary art. Ball then relocated to her ancestral homelands to raise her three children. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally, including the Half Gallery, NY; Vancouver Art Gallery, BC; Nino Mier Gallery, CA; Portland Art Museum, OR; Gagosian, NY; Seattle Art Museum, WA; Almine Rech Gallery, FR; and SculptureCenter, NY. Natalie attained her M.F.A. degree in Painting & Printmaking at Yale School of Art in 2018. See: www.natalieball.com
MARTHA REDBONE (Cherokee, Choctaw, Shawnee, African-American descent) – she/her
Singer/Songwriter/Composer – NYC
Martha Redbone is a Native & African-American vocalist/songwriter/composer/educator. She is known for her unique gumbo of folk, blues and gospel from her childhood in Harlan County, Kentucky infused with the eclectic grit of pre-gentrified Brooklyn. Inheriting the powerful vocal range of her gospel singing African American father and the resilient spirit of her mother’s Cherokee/Shawnee/Choctaw culture, Redbone broadens the boundaries of American Roots music. With songs and storytelling that share her life experience as a Native and Black woman and mother in the new millenium, Redbone gives voice to issues of social justice, bridging traditions from past to present, connecting cultures, and celebrating the human spirit. Redbone is the 2020 Drama Desk Award winner for Outstanding Music in a Play as Composer of Original Music and Score for the 2019 revival “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” at the Public Theater, NYC. Redbone and her collaborator/husband, Aaron Whitby, are awardees of NEFA, NPN, MAPFund and Creative Capital. Redbone is a 2015 Native Arts and Culture Foundation National Artist Fellow. See: www.martharedboneroots.com
AMBER STARKS aka Melanin Mvskoke (Muscogee/Creek Citizen) – she/her
Afro Indigenous Activist – Portland, OR
Amber is an Afro Indigenous (African-American and Native American) activist, aspiring cultural critic/commentator, a student of decolonial theory, and budding abolitionist. She is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and is also of Shawnee, Yuchi, Quapaw, and Cherokee descent. She’s passionate about Black Indigeneity and seeks to normalize, affirm, and advocate for the intersectional identity in both the Black and Native communities through discourse and direct action. She ultimately believes the partnerships between Black and Indigenous peoples (and all POC) will aid in the dismantling of white supremacy and settler colonialism, globally. In addition to activism, her passions include her family, traveling, reading, researching her ancestry, reconnecting to her tribe and learning her ancestral language, beading, and roller skating. She earned a Bachelor’s of Science in General Science (emphasis in Biology and Anthropology) from the University of Oregon in 2003.
MODERATOR: Stephen Qacung Blanchett (Yupik, African-American) – he/him
Musician, Art Education Director, Juneau Arts and Humanities Council – Juneau, AK
Stephen Qacung Blanchett is a performing artist, a culture-bearer, an art and culture educator, and an advocate for equity and inclusion. One of the main catalysts to what brought him into this world of performance art was his own mixed cultural heritage. Qacung is the son of a strong Yup’ik Inuit mother who brought him up in an extremely traditional life; a strong African-American father who taught him to be proud of his Black heritage also shaped his upbringing. As he has done so many times artistically, he first had to blend and mix his own story and life experiences, to bring his life into completion. Qacung has served in leadership roles with the Alaska Native Heritage Center, First Alaskans Institute, Pamyua Inc., and other arts, culture, and community service entities. He is currently the Art & Culture Education Director for Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. He is a 2019 Dance/USA Fellowship recipient, a 2019 & 2016 recipient of the Rasmuson Foundation’s Artist Fellowship, and a 2015 Native Arts and Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellow. Qacung is a global citizen whose Yup’ik and black roots guide his leadership and artistic vision. He is a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and Alaska Native Studies. To sample some of Qacung’s music please visit: www.pamyua.com