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(Update: canceled) Chika to headline Black Arts Matter Festival

The 2022 Black Arts Matter Festival will take place from March 23 to March 26 at Wisconsin Union Theater.

Editor’s note: The Wisconsin Union Theater announced on Saturday, March 26 that the planned show from Chika has been canceled. Our original post on the show announcement remains below.

The 2022 Black Arts Matter Festival will take place from March 23 to March 26 at Wisconsin Union Theater.

Photo: A headshot of rapper Chika, against a brown backdrop. Photo by Nicol Biesek.

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Wednesday, March 23 will see the start of the 2022 Black Arts Matter Festival, the event’s third iteration. Launched in 2019, the festival’s initial goal was to challenge any arbitrarily applied notions of limitation when it came to Black artistry. In 2020, the event’s founder and organizer, slam poet Shasparay Irvin, centered that year’s Black Arts Matter Festival around queer expression. Returning after a 2021 absence, the 2022 Black Arts Matter Festival finds the festival expanding once again, with ascendant rapper Chika to deliver a free, just-announced headlining set on Saturday, March 26.

With or without the added star power, Irvin’s ambitious multi-disciplinary vision has already made the festival an essential fixture in Madison’s cultural landscape. This year’s Black Arts Matter Festival will take place at the Memorial Union’s Play Circle Theater, Wisconsin Union Theater, and Great Hall. The lineup includes a national slam poetry contest, the debut of Irvin’s one-person artistic piece Full Of Herself (with an accompanying panel discussion led by Tone Madison columnist Dr. Sami Schalk), and a set from Chika. While the festival’s roots remain extremely local, Chika’s late-breaking addition speaks to a growing national interest in what Irvin has spearheaded.

An exceptionally gifted rapper, vocalist, activist, songwriter, and poet, Chika—who is Alabama-based—has amassed a dedicated following through a strong discography and exemplary live show. Despite earning that adoration, the path for Chika has not been all roses, leading the multi-faceted artist to publicly announce retirement in April 2021. That retirement lasted all of a week before Chika’s convictions proved too overwhelming for any attempts at dormancy. Audiences are better off for her return.

While Chika’s set will be free and open to the public, the Wisconsin Union Theater has requested that those interested in attending RSVP. Doors for Chika will open at 7:30 p.m. ahead of an 8 p.m. start time at the Union Theater.

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