The Black Out Loud Conference, to be held in Baton Rouge Aug. 10-12, is a three-day event designed to celebrate Black visibility in the realm of the arts, media and activism and to assist participants with tools and resources to better push their narratives from outside the margins to center. Spearheaded by poet, teaching artist, and activist, Donney Rose – Black Out Loud draws its name from Rose’s Feb. 2017 book of the same name that celebrated Black American culture.
Q: What inspired the concept of the Black Out Loud Conference?
A: Last year I was writing a bunch of Facebook posts in celebration of Black culture during Black History Month (Feb. 2017). Those posts shaped into a book of prose at the request and support of my online community. Because the posts were in tribute to celebrating the often ignored/misrepresented identities within Black American culture, I began to think about what would a whole gathering of people looked like if it was centered around the idea of spotlighting the stories of marginalized people.
Q: Why is this conference important for Baton Rouge?
A: Baton Rouge is my hometown and the place that fostered all of my perspective around race/race relations, for better or worse. It is a city that is home to many progressive, liberation-minded individuals, but also steeped in cultural norms of bigotry, racism and exclusion. It is not enough for a select few ‘exceptional’ Black people to have their voices amplified, but for a larger swath of the Black population to feel emboldened to tell and live their truths, void of those truths being misinterpreted or co-opted for someone else’s benefit. Because Baton Rouge is home to two large universities and a city that has an influx of revolving residents, many of whom are young people of color, it is important for those people to be able to see this city be a place that is not just tolerant of them, but one that validates their existence and their stories.
Q: Who are some of the key people involved in Black Out Loud?
A: We have a core team of people planning the conference who bring various levels of expertise to the table in the realms of funding development, public relations, talent management and volunteerism. The main conference day, Aug. 11, will feature a keynote address by Van Lathan of TMZ, who had one of the biggest moments in Black America in 2018 when he argued with Kanye West about his views on slavery. In addition, we are bringing in workshop facilitators and panelists who are experts in the fields of art, media and activism to talk about and share best practices with participants about controlling their narrative/making sure their struggle is not dismissed.
Q: What is the role of non-Black people who seek to be involved in the conference?
A: You do not have to be an African American, but you should be aware that the center piece of this conference is the Black narrative. Meaning that if a non-Black participant is engaging with Black Out Loud, their plan should be to learn and engage, but not to seek to center themselves. We have had non-Black people sign up to volunteer and the idea with volunteerism from non-Black people (specifically white volunteers) is one in which their volunteerism is truly from a place of supportive service and not from a place of taking up visibility or centering themselves.
Q: Where can people go to find more information?
A: The central information hub is the Black Out Loud Conference 2018 Facebook page. We also have a Twitter and Instagram account (@blackoutloudbr). Questions can be sent to email@example.com. A website is forthcoming, but all information including registration, volunteerism, sponsorship etc. can be accessed from the FB page
Donney Rose is a poet, teaching artist, and community activist from Baton Rouge. He is the marketing director for the arts-based non-profit, Forward Arts, Inc., where he also works as a teaching artist facilitating creative writing workshops in various Greater Baton Rouge Area schools. Donney holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Marketing from Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge. He is the co-host of Drawl, a Southern spoken word podcast. In April 2018, Donney became a 2018-2019 Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow. When not facilitating workshops, Donney hones his own craft of writing and performing poetry. He is the author of The Crying Buck, an acclaimed chapbook of poetry that delves into Black masculinity and vulnerability through a critical lens, and Black Out Loud, a collection of prose-style poetic interpretations of Black History Month 2017. His work as a performance poet/writer has been featured in a variety of publications, including Atlanta Black Star, Blavity, Button Poetry, All Def Digital, Slam Find, , Drunk In A Midnight Choir, and Nicholls State University’s Gris-Gris literary journal. Donney also contributed two scholarly articles to the St. James Encyclopedia of Hip Hop Culture, 1st Edition (St. James Press, February 2018) While Donney has always used his voice to entertain, uplift, and inspire — a true community activist emerged in the summer of 2016. Baton Rouge had become the familiar scene that so many American cities have experienced, with the shooting death of a black man by a Baton Rouge Police officer. Donney not only acted immediately, but he has remained a pivotal community voice through the turmoil, sharing his thoughts to bring light to to his city on local, national, and international platforms, including BBC, HuffPost, The New York Times, PBS’ Democracy Now, and The Advocate. In the week’s following the widely publicized incident, protests and militarized policing took over Baton Rouge, followed by the killings of several Baton Rouge law enforcement officers, and finally by a thousand-year flood encompassing much of Louisiana. Donney gave his voice to these causes, most notably contributing to the Fight the Flood album, a project by various artists to benefit the Capital Area United Way’s flood relief projects. And while all of this was occurring, Donney was experiencing a very personal loss with the passing of a beloved and promising student, for whom he has worked to honor through dedicated community work. He is a member of the 2017 Greater Baton Rouge Business Report Forty under 40 class, the recipient of the Ink Festival’s inaugural Making a Mark award (2017, Tupelo, Miss.), and New Venture Theatre’s 2016 Humanitarian of the Year award. Donney lives in his hometown of Baton Rouge with his wife and fellow writer, Leslie, and their twin cats, Jalen and Derrick.