By Cori Lucas,
It’s impossible to miss the colossal murals, vibrantly colored store fronts, and beaming illustrations of Black faces plastered on walls that stretch the length of Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue–also known as the Black Arts District (B.A.D.). Affectionately referred to by locals as The Avenue, the Black Arts District is recognized by the Maryland State Arts Council as a one of the state’s official Arts and Entertainment Districts as of July 2019.
Brion Gill, or “Lady Brion”, is the executive director of the Black Arts District, Cultural Curator of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), and an award-winning poet, educator and activist. Lady Brion is also a leading advocate for further development (without gentrification) of The Avenue, which she asserts would attract more patrons and artists, ignite the community’s economy, and ultimately expand their influence farther than West Baltimore. The Black Arts District gives artists of color a safe place to develop and nurture their talents in establishments such as Jubilee Arts which offers a variety of dance and art classes; Arch Social Club, an entertainment venue; and over a dozen theaters to cater to aspiring actors. In addition to being the home of a host of black-owned businesses and restaurants, people can come to the Black Arts District to enjoy everything from lively music to a tearful theater performance.
Provided the funding to bring the vision to life, Lady Brion would ensure that the Black Arts District would be architecturally revitalized without tampering with the Black influence that makes The Avenue what it is. She would take The Avenue back to the hustling, bustling epicenter of Black entertainment and business that it was in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s by not only supporting the arts, but investing in and upgrading the local restaurants and businesses that bring the flavor. However, Lady Brion’s vision doesn’t stop at the Black Arts District! She has dreams that the city of Baltimore itself will become a major hub for creatives to come and pursue their passions. Ultimately, she seeks to utilize the Black Arts District to advance and “ensure greater autonomy for Black people (namely artists) at the individual, residential, commercial, and institutional levels.”
The Avenue shines a spotlight on Black creatives and seeks to empower Baltimore’s Black youth–the majority of which are being undereducated and societally neglected–through artistic mediums, as well as share the beauty of Black culture and minds with the greater Baltimore area. Local organizations and artists, such as Lady Brion herself, endeavor daily to restore the Black Arts District to its former glory of the mid-60’s–a thriving local destination where people of all kinds can come from miles around to appreciate and support Black talent, culture and food. To view a long list of all there is to do in the Black Arts District and keep up with events, follow them @officialblackartsdistrict and visit their page at cllctivly.org/listing/black-arts-district/
All February, we’re honoring a few of the many Black leaders in our community making history every day with #28DaysofBlackFutures.
This is a crowdfunding and narrative power campaign that amplifies and mobilizes resources for Black-led organizations serving Greater Baltimore.
Throughout the month, we will highlight 28 dedicated Black leaders and organizations on the ground creating programs and initiatives that drive health, wealth, safety, and culture in #Baltimore.
Let’s CELEBRATE these changemakers and SUPPORT their work! Our goal is to raise $100,000 by the end of this campaign.
Head over to 28DaysofBlackfutures.org to donate today! ❤️🖤💚
Let’s show up BIG for our Black leaders and their organizations!