Every year on June 19th, Black Americans celebrate “Juneteenth” to commemorate the day Union Officer General Gordon Granger issued an order to slave masters in Galveston, Texas to free enslaved Africans.
This was necessary since the Emancipation Proclamation, announced by President Lincoln about three years before, did not have jurisdiction over Confederate states like Texas and technically didn’t free a single enslaved Black person. Even after it was law, there was minimal support in enforcing the law.
In the Capital Region, a local entrepreneur is producing an event that not only celebrates the Emancipation of Black people, but celebrates the creative impact Black people have made in the region. Through art, poetry and music, Talk Eat Art, or T.E.A. is an event that has been happening for 4 years in the Capital Region, but this year, the event also commemorates an important day in Black History.
Kaciem Swain (aka @CampaignSwain) is the Founder and Creative Director of Velvet Rope Group, an experiential special events company. He says he decided to celebrate freedom and economic development for people of color rather than a history of slavery and inequality. Six venues, over a thousand tickets sold, and 100 performances later, this year’s event will be held at Proctors Theatre on June 15th.
Swain wants to provide a platform for artists, musicians, and creatives of color to share their talents. His event promotion career began as a teenage protegee with a series called “Rock The Mic.” That started Swain on a path to creating a diverse range of experiences and events, like He said She said, a forum about love, intimacy and relationships, and a writers forum called “A Penny for Your Thoughts”.
Swain wanted to offer a safe space for people to come together, eat, drink, and share constructive criticism in a safe creative environment.
Swain has also teamed up with entrepreneur Liska Wilson, marketing consultant, founder of the nonprofit She’s a Boss, and Busy Day co-owner. Together they created Think Tank Thursdays, a mastermind event series in which aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners, and visionaries meet up and share ideas about success, innovation, and growth.
“The goal is to build relationships that are diverse and inclusive. Instead of focusing on us having seats at the table, we should focus on building a table together.” Swain also wants to help the creative economy as well through events like T.E.A., whose business model has changed to a profit sharing model where creatives are empowered to deliver and understand that they can create their own financial destiny. The new business model has allowed creatives to see the impact they can have from a business perspective.
I also got a chance to speak to a musician Jordan Taylor-Hill, who will be a part of the opening performance at T.E.A.
“Juneteenth for me personally means freedom of expression as an artist and a drummer. Practices like drumming were condemned and banned on plantations and places where Africans would gather. So to be able to perform , and commemorate people who have laid the groundwork and made this possible is an honor. I’m excited to be involved in this event.”
Guest post by Ashleigh Kinsey, owner, AK Design