Joy Yvonne Jones is a dynamic force in all of her many roles, some of which include actress, mom, activist, and playwright. So it’s no surprise that she is a part of the new SAY IT LOUD FESTIVAL celebrating Juneteenth in San Diego. Jones, who is President of the San Diego Black Artist Collective, along with fellow organizers Rich Soublet II, and Zach King, have created a week-long festival of theatre, music, and poetry that can be enjoyed in person and streamed virtually.
The San Diego Black Artist Collective created the SAY IT LOUD FESTIVAL to commemorate Juneteenth, a day that marks the official end of slavery in America. The festival has a live, in-person opening ceremony on Sunday, June 13th at the New VVillage Arts stage in the Carlsbad Flower Fields, which kicks off a week of virtual performances of new plays by local Black playwrights.
Raised in Houston where Juneteeth is a celebrated day, Jones was surprised to find that this was not the case in California. So the desire to create something for Juneteenth has been on her mind for a few years. Jones says that this year’s festival is the culmination of that dream, and a lot of hard work coming together.
“I found myself at the intersection of passion and opportunity and took a leap. With the Collective, I knew that it was possible to really do something great.
Bringing this festival together has been an adventure. There have been twists and turns, letdowns and victories, but with the help of our amazingly talented and capable members, we are here. We are collaborating with seven local organizations for Juneteenth to bring to San Diego county both live and virtual performances. We have been able to cast 20+ Black San Diego Artists. This is a dream and it’s only getting better.”
While the Collective will be participating in other live events around the city to celebrate Juneteenth, the only live portion of the SAY IT LOUD FESTIVAL is the opening ceremony featuring The Buffalo Soldier Mounted Cavalry. This ceremony will be hosted by Jones and is directed by Milena Sellers Phillips. Along with the Calvary, there will be live music, readings, and performances. This can be watched in person or live online, and Jones says that having this live component was very important.
“The opening ceremony is the only live portion of the SAY IT LOUD FESTIVAL. The San Diego Black Artist Collective began with a gathering of Black Artists and after a year and a half of tribulation, we thought it important to take advantage of the opportunity to begin this celebration of Freedom in person. Melina Sellers Phillips, the director, and coordinator of this event had the vision to make it a grand ceremony in which we celebrate and honor our history our way.”
The festival includes online streaming performances from partner theatres New Village Arts, La Jolla Playhouse, Moxie Theatre, Diversionary Theatre, and the San Diego Repertory Theatre. They will also be a part of the Globe’s outdoor AXIS program, and the second annual Artists for Black Lives SD event at Balboa Park, both on June 19th.
Jones says that after reaching out to see which theatres were interested, they worked in collaboration with each theatre to find the production that would be a good fit for each organization.
“Some gave us complete creative freedom and others were more hands-on,” Jones says. “The most important thing is that local Black Artists have the opportunity to share work that we are passionate about, build and strengthen relationships with local theatres and give Juneteenth the reverence it deserves.“
The ultimate goal of the festival is for audiences to see that instead of a singular monolith, the Black culture is made up of many varied, and beautiful facets. Rich Soublet II says that like all art, this festival is about connecting with the audience.
“We want the audience to witness the width and breadth of creativity and lived experience of those that society would tell them are their ‘others.’ We want the audience to make the connection between themselves and those they’ve seen as different, to see that Black people have hopes and dreams, flaws and imperfections, and a perspective that is as vivid and valid as their own.”
For Jones, the hope is that this inaugural festival is the first of many celebrating Black Culture.
“We would like to share the beauty and resilience of Black Culture. I feel like we do a good job of showing different sides of the Culture, how we cope, how we carry our history, and how we are interconnected. The Diaspora is vast so there is no way that we can share everything that is Black Culture, but we can offer the best of what we bring to the table.”
Join Joy Yvonne Jones, Rich Soublet II, and Zach King at THE SAY IT LOUD FESTIVAL is happening from June 13th through 19th with live events and streaming shows in multiple locations. More information on the shows and their details can be found at sdblackartistcollective.com/sayitloud.
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