In the months since their critically-acclaimed collaboration with the National Symphony Orchestra in January, BloomBars’ current Artists-in-Residence Gabriel “Asheru” Benn and Tamika “Love” Jones have been busy, to say the least.
Asheru, founder of Guerilla Arts Ink, an arts & education organization is wrapping up his after-school enrichment program at Cesar Chavez Middle School and launching the next installment for the summer. Combining mural arts, media arts, creative writing, martial arts, dance/hip-hop production, the Guerilla Arts Afterschool Program (GAP) endeavors to “stimulate the creative as well as academic development of the student participants”. The program kicks off on June 19 at the Park Morton housing development in the Petworth neighborhood.
Asheru and his team are pounding the pavement now to recruit 13-17 year-old students in the neighborhood to participate and volunteers to help with teaching workshops, developing the website and content, and marketing. The Park Morton curriculum will focus on digital media production and is sponsored by the DC Housing Authority and the Howard University Center for Urban Progress with funding from American University and in collaboration with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
If that’s not enough, Asheru, the teacher, is also hosting students working in DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program at two sites. Interns will get hands-on experience in media programming at the Columbia Heights Recreation Center with Hands On the Future studio and at the newly-formed We Act radio station in Anacostia.
Up next for Asheru, the performing artist, is a concert on June 16 at the Lincoln Theater to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of DefJam Records, a Shaolin Jazz performance on June 25 with DJ 2-Tone Jones at Blues Alley, and he’s putting the final touches on a new album, “Sleepless in Soweto”.
Tamika “Love” Jones has been equally committed and inspired by her work with local youth. Her after-school program, “Heart to Art”, has helped girls become superheros who can change the world by exploring various topics (environment, civil rights, peace, health, disease, conflict resolution) through music, dance and visual arts and instilled “a renewed sense of vibrancy” in their hearts. The final session takes place this week at which Tamika and her team will award the young ladies with gift certificates and perform a live recording of their theme song (and by “their” we mean that the girls wrote it!) entitled “Take My Hand”. Heart to Art will return to Bloombars at the start of the school year this fall and will also expand to local public school, Ludlow Taylor Elementary.
Tamika, the superhero, has her sights set on programming this summer to help families and communities. On Father’s Day, June 17, Tamika is planning to celebrate dads by helping them stay focused on health with a presentation from a holistic specialist, vegetarian food tasting, music and a kids card-making corner. After that is a Summer Rejuvenation Jam on July 22 to encourage families to move towards a healthier lifestyle.
Finally, Tamika, the artist, will perform at VegFest on September 22 in collaboration with BloomBars’ partner, Compassion Over Killing. She’ll also release her sophomore album “Addicted to Love Jones” on July 1 and will headline a performance at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre on July 13 with fellow songstresses Yahzarah and Deborah Bond.