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The Young, Gifted, and Black Cabaret Nuit celebrates Black joy

by | Mar 4, 2024 | Culture, Downtown | 0 comments

On Feb. 9, Black performers danced in a room full of joy during the Young, Gifted and Black (YGB) Cabaret Nuit on Friday for Black History Month. The group describes the event as a “night to celebrate Beauty, Talent [and] Glamour of Black Dancers in YEG.” There was no shortage of celebrations with nine performances enticing the audience under the glow of a neon cursive sign saying “Love Always.” 

“This is a little bit of my baby,” says the event’s producer, Chichi Rey Del Mundo, “but, I want other Black performers to be like, ‘We could do this,’ and it is not just to celebrate Black History Month, but just to celebrate Blackness… I want this to be like a little seed.” 

A few years ago, the idea for the event came to him and fellow performer CallMeKeeks. Starting in winter, the event took three months to organize. “This is a Black event,” says Chichi, “but it’s also [a] very queer event at [its] core because I wanted it to be, like, plural.”

Chichi got into burlesque performing about a year ago and brings a “flirty, like non-binary, like Latino flair” to the art form. He and other performers who are people of colour experience tokenization. Chichi explains how it’s hard to get on stage in a cast of eight to 10 performers with only one or two spots for them. They say, “We wanted to have a Cabaret that was only Black performers for Black History Month… to showcase that there are plenty of very talented Black artists in the city dancing that people can hire.” The show got its name from the Nina Simone song “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black.”

The event started with the host, CallMeKeeks, acknowledging that the venue, Rhubarb Cafe and Cocktails, stands on Treaty 6 territory. In a post-event interview, CallMeKeeks describes that she extended the acknowledgement to “… the Indigenous people globally that are being harmed right now at the hands of our own government.” 

The event’s opening number, “the Black Angels,” was performed by Chichi Rey Del Mundo, CallMeKeeks, and Saint Solstice. It was a Charlie’s Angels rendition of the song “Independent Woman” by Destiny’s Child, bolstered by finger guns and all-black outfits. 

Longtime friends Rebecca Blk Coq and Toni-Ann Morisseau did a duet. They began on chairs across from each other and danced to “F.U.C.K.” by Victoria Monét. Rebecca Blk Coq says, “…having people of all ethnicities and colours come out to sort of support my art and my talent… is beautiful.” Nearing the song’s end, Morisseau brought a delighted audience member to a chair centre stage to watch Rebecca Blk Coq dance up close. 

Morisseau says, “I was extremely nervous because I haven’t performed since I was like back in college.” However, the loving, open, and supportive cast instantly quelled her nerves. Engaging in cultural activities is a regular occurrence for her. Through food, music, and especially, buying books with representation for her four-year-old son, “I think I celebrate Black History Month every month,” she says.

Rebecca Blk Coq says, “Black History Month is just me being my best, Black self.” Celebrating Black History cannot be confined to one month, and Rebecca says, “…you can be Black all-year round and Black 24/7, every day of the week, and you know, nothing’s going to change that.” 

Mx. Jackson came to the stage with a flowy white nightgown trailing behind them. They danced to the Kyle Dion song “Brown” while slowly revealing their (fittingly) all-brown outfit. “My performance meant being sexy and empowered and Black and beautiful,” says Mx. Jackson. For them, Black History Month has connotations of false-allyship, lip service, and educating others. They say, “I’ve intentionally, like, leaned into… having fun and feeling joy and cultivating space for myself to just be comfortable… That’s what [Black History Month] means to me. That’s what I want it to be.” 

Outside of Black History Month, they affirm that, “when your laptop’s closed, when your phone’s down, it still matters.” 

CallMeKeeks, pointing out how the stage area had begun to smell like cocoa butter,introduced the next performer, Luna/Lucian LaPearl. LaPearl danced and lip-synced to “King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar with powerful accuracy. Following the intermission, CallMeKeeks returned to the stage to introduce Quincy Pipella’s performance. Pipella entered the dance world at four years old, but her perspective on dance changed at 15 when she started hip-hop dance. The dancer highlights the importance of “people being in spaces where they can see other art forms and realize the beauty of all of them.” 

Chichi Rey Del Mundo and Tiago Cruz did a contemporary piece representing queer and polyamorous love titled “Until I Found Them.” which used the song “Until I Found You” by Stephen Sanchez. “We have this energy,” says Cruz, “like our bodies kind of move in a similar way because he’s also from South America.” They flowed together through the musical tides, illuminated by alternating colours. 

Cruz says that he moved from Brazil less than two years ago. He has studied topics of race and describes the concept of being Black as one of his biggest passions. He practices this passion through his connections and responsibility to his ancestors, family, and friends. Cruz says that he hoped the audience would have a good time. “Especially when you bring a subject like race or queerness, like it always comes… with a ton of… trauma and pain and all of the fights that we have to go through every single day just to be here alive and having fun and growing,” says Cruz. 

“And this is a moment for us to just remember that we also love and we also take care of each other. So those little feelings are really important, other than just trying to survive in this super oppressive world that doesn’t respect colour, bodies, mindsets, sexuality, and all of the other aspects of our life.” 

Afterwards, Saint Solstice performed “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston. 

“I just, like, love seeing like Black people and Black femme people and Black women just, like, be happy and celebrate joy and it doesn’t have to do with their race or anything, they’re just like a person being a person,” says Saint Solstice. CallMeKeeks  performed solo. “I consider myself a walking circus,” says the multi-faceted performer. CallMeKeek’s performance was a full-circle moment for a few reasons. She danced and swung ribbons to a remix of “Murder She Wrote” by Chaka Demus & Pliers, a staple song in Caribbean households and festivals. Her mom had a front-row seat. CallMeKeeks says she inspires every single movement in her body and taught her how to love being Black. 

For Black History Month, CallMeKeeks made the easy commitment of performing exclusively with songs with Black voices or from Black-centred films. She says, “As a Black woman living in Alberta, a lot of people don’t want to see me win. So, the best way I can showcase myself, who I am authentically, is to continue to show up to events and sing my little songs to my Black artists that I love, shake my ass the best way I know how, and… bring a lot of joy and happiness to those around me.” CallMeKeeks says that she hopes the audience gained an understanding of the amount of fun, laughter, and depth in Edmonton’s Black community. 

CallMeKeeks ended the night by saying, “Even though it’s Black History Month, you can support Black futures all-year round.” 

Photos by Rebecca Reeves

Rebecca Reeves

The Griff


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