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“The Watchers” is a film adaptation of the 2022 book of the same name by A.M. Shine.
Review: “The Watchers”
Published June 13, 2024

10 Black change-makers influencing the Twin Cities arts scene

Celebrate Black History Month by checking out these local artists, authors and creatives.
Image by Noah Lawrence-Holder
Courtesy of Noah Lawrence-Holder

With so much talent in the Twin Cities, it’s always possible to discover and support locally sourced art. Here’s a list of local folks who are shaping current history through their creativity.

Miloe: Have an affinity for chill, underground indie? So do we. Miloe, the stage name of Bobby Kabeya, provides all the feel-good energy you need to get you through the end of winter. Kabeya’s major project “Greenhouse EP” was released in 2020 and consists of five songs that scream sunshine and youth. By incorporating traditional bedroom-pop elements with Congolese-inspired stylistic choices, Kabeya is able to pay homage to his youth in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Check out Miloe here.

Leslie Barlow: Leslie Barlow, an artist and lecturer at the University of Minnesota, explores the entanglement of race and relationships with her colorful, life-sized portraits. Her oil paintings highlight community dynamics and are inspired by real people and their stories. Last summer, Barlow’s work was featured in an exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, and currently you can view her paintings on display at the Weisman Art Museum or here.

Noah Lawrence-Holder: Illustrator, animator and storyboard artist Noah Lawrence-Holder pairs bright colors with themes of racial and gender equality to highlight the importance of intersectionality. Their work has evolved to portray “Afrofuturistic settings in which Black and queer people have been fully liberated.” Through these creations, Lawrence-Holder hopes to connect with and uplift others who inhabit the same identities as they do. They recently finished work for a residency program through the Minnesota African American Heritage Museum and Gallery which will go on display in June. In the meantime, view their work here.

Danez Smith: Writer Danez Smith crafts breathtaking poetry and prose about their experience as a queer Black person. Their poetry books have been positively reviewed by several major publications including The New York Times and The Telegraph, and their poem about police brutality was published on Buzzfeed. Smith’s work navigates powerful themes with grace, creativity and power. Purchase their most recent book of poems here, or view their work online here.

Junauda Petrus-Nasah: Junauda Petrus-Nasah’s recent debut novel, “The Stars and the Blackness Between Them,” tells the story of two fictional Black girls who fall in love — in Minneapolis. Exploring topics such as Blackness, queerness and adolescence, Petrus-Nasah provides young adults with an uplifting, joyous novel. Her other work includes short-film series “Sweetness of Wild” and “There Are Other Worlds,” a play incorporating aerial art. Support Petrus-Nasah’s creations here.

T. Aaron Cisco: Author and essayist T. Aaron Cisco describes his work as “singing the songs of the unsung as loudly as possible.” Whether he’s interviewing for a news article or crafting an expansive Afrofuturism novel, Cisco’s writing is a tool to amplify the voices of those who often go overlooked. His ultimate goal? For his work to connect with as many people as possible. “By putting prose and paragraphs to the page, we can experience a single moment across thousands of years, and connect with billions of people in an instant,” he said. You can find Cisco’s words here, here and here.

Courtesy of Reggie LeFlore

Reggie LeFlore: Visual artist Reggie LeFlore celebrates humanity through murals. His street art-inspired projects reference real people, allowing folks to connect and identify with each other’s stories. LeFlore’s murals have been located in public spaces across the Twin Cities, and his biggest project — commissioned by the 2021 X Games — was placed right across the street from First Avenue. Currently, LeFlore is working on a 20-year project called Overseer. It depicts the story of a celestial demigoddess who helps him tap into “[his] identity and ancestry as a Black person in the United States.” His work can be viewed online here.

Patience Zalanga: The work of local freelance photographer Patience Zalanga primarily documents the Black Lives Matter movement and the effects of police brutality on the Twin Cities community. Her work homes in on the singular moments of power that come together to create one sweeping force of people fighting for change. Zalanga’s photographs have received national acclaim and made their way to lists such as TIME’s Top 100 and The New York Times Year In Pictures. Support her photography here.

Papa Mbye: Rapper Papa Mbye joined the Minneapolis music scene back in 2020 and has since solidified his position as an up-and-coming artist with his EP “MANG FI.” This project was received graciously by fans who helped sell out a 7th Street Entry show last fall. On March 4, Mbye will return to First Avenue, this time in the mainroom, with several other performers for the venue’s Best New Bands of 2021 event. Buy tickets for the show here, or stream Mbye’s music here.

Sophia Eris: The Minneapolis-based artist, DJ and MC Sophia Eris is best known for touring with popular artist Lizzo. Her current residency is at Ice House Minneapolis where she curates Power Rager Sundays, which are hip-hop dance nights that highlight local talent and new music. As for Eris’ music, her EP “The Reception” dropped on Valentine’s Day. This collection of songs provides listener’s with a taste of her groovy style and was made in collaboration with Casey Gerald. You can listen to it here.

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