City of Gainesville kicks off Black History Month with Black love celebration


About 30 onlookers gathered on Friday inside the historic Thomas Center to observe some of Gainesville’s most hidden talent.

The city and Bailey Learning and Arts Collective partnered to produce “A Celebration of Black love, arts and poetry.”

An intimate crowd cheered as local poets recited original pieces and local artists performed their songs. Large canvases on display lined the space behind the performers. The open mic event encouraged audience members to express what Black love meant to them.

“Bailey Learning and Arts Collective has really done an effective job in bringing aspects of African and African American culture that is sorely needed in Alachua County,” said Turbado Marabou, a storyteller and artist.

Marabou is married to the founder of BLAAC, Terri Bailey. Bailey said she started the nonprofit around 2013 with goals to offer events that promote individual and community activism, empowerment as well as cultural, visual and folk-art education through community celebrations. Bailey said she hopes people walk away from the event knowing the importance of celebrating Black love and Black artistry.

“We have some phenomenal poets and visual artists and performers here in Gainesville and often people just want to hire us for exposure but we need to pay our artists and we need to celebrate our artists in the community,” she said.

Terri Bailey, the founder of the Bailey Learning and Arts Collective, reads her poetry. “I’m going to continue to do events like this to make sure we are celebrated, that we celebrate ourselves and that we love upon ourselves,” she said. (Manny Rea/WUFT News)

Friday night was the first time several poets performed in front of an audience. Artists shared poems about subjects that they were passionate about like climate change and campus safety. One audience member even performed an original song for the first time during the open mic segment. First-timers were accompanied by nationally recognized artists like Alyne Harris and Kenneth Keith.

Poet Kio Forrest, 20, performed a personal piece he wrote two years ago. He said he began using poetry to express and cope with his feelings.

“I have a lot of poems like that where it’s like it’s a situation I feel very strongly about that I just have to write it out,” he said.

One of the poems Forrest shared began as a mere journal entry.

Kariel Stuart, whose poet name is Rhythm Kai, shared a poem about her experience after category five Hurricane Dorian made landfall over the Bahamas in 2019. She thinks it’s important to acknowledge all perspectives and wanted her poem to prompt audience members to pay more attention to how climate change might be impacting other people.

“It was kind of like to get out the emotions of experiencing a natural disaster in my country and how it affected me and my family,” she said.

Stuart, 21, uses her poetry to shed light on topics she feels aren’t talked about enough.

“There’s real people with real stories and real livelihoods and it’s not very well captured compared to how everything else is captured,” Stuart said.

Carol Richardson, the acting cultural affairs manager for the City of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, thanks the turnout of community members for supporting the arts. “It is always important to honor Black voices,” she said. (Manny Rea/WUFT News)

One poet shared her story after receiving the alert of a suspicious package on the University of Florida campus Thursday. Nichaela Williams, 19, said that was the first time she ever wrote a poem as she was actively experiencing something.

“When you’re going through something, you haven’t really sorted out your feelings yet so it was more getting those out and then seeing how it could be turned into poetry and I’m really happy with how it turned out,” she said.

Williams said she wants people to understand that a community can’t survive by itself.

“I want people to see it and remember that Black love or love of any minority group requires work from all people,” she said.

This event kicked off the city’s Black music month. The city and BLAAC have been working together on Black History Month events for three years.

“We’re really proud at the city to be able to provide these types of programs,” said Carol Richardson, the city’s interim cultural affairs manager.

The city will be hosting several events throughout February highlighting the significance of Black art, music and culture.

“If we don’t put a price tag on our work no one will ever buy it or value it,” Bailey said.

About Derrah Getter

Derrah is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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