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Inaugural "Unity Fest" To Feature "Killer Bees" Screening, Guest Speakers, Live Music, Community Art And More

Nicole Barylski

"Unity Fest" will feature captivating speeches, delectable eats, collaborative art and more. (Courtesy Photo)

Southampton Arts Center (SAC), along with Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, Eastville Community Historical Society, and Southampton African American Museum, will host the first ever "Unity Fest: Coming Together for Community, Equality and Social Justice" on Sunday, July 26.

"The idea came up while discussing the screening of Killer Bees taking place that night with filmmaker Orson Cummings," Amy Kirwin, SAC Artistic Director, explained. "We thought it might be timely to celebrate unity all day leading up to the film, which is what became 'Unity Fest.'"

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. the East End-based organizations will highlight a plethora of multi-culturally-owned and run business and organizations, as well as commemorate unity with terrific tunes, captivating speeches, delectable eats, and collaborative art on the western grounds of SAC. The celebration of African American and Afro Indigenous Culture on the East End and beyond will conclude with a Killer Bees screening at 8:40 p.m.

"The Center is in many ways, the heart of our community, a safe place to grow, learn, and reunite with friends," Bonnie Michelle Cannon, Executive Director Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, said. "The Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center has served working families, primarily of color, for more than 65 years. We were so excited when Ben and Orson Cummings created the movie Killer Bees, as parts of it filmed at The Center."

Cannon continued, "We had a screening of the movie as part of our 'Thinking Forward Lecture Series, Equality Matters in the Hamptons,' when it first came out. Our series brings the community together, to speak openly about being Black in America, opening hearts and minds to limitless opportunities," Cannon noted. "We are providing positive and inspirational role models for our children, teens, and adults. These talks have helped create deep and open conversations around racism, stereotypes, and inequalities."

Amy Kirwin of Southampton Arts Center, Brenda Simmons of Southampton African American Museum, and Dr. Georgette Grier-Key of Eastville Historical Society will deliver the welcome address at 11:45 a.m. Additional orators will include Trevon Jenkins and a speaker to be announced (11:50 a.m.), Paul Jeffers, Minerva Perez, and Billy Moss (1:45 p.m.), and Travis Wilkins, Lisa Votino, and Larry Street (3:45 p.m.). At 3:55 p.m., Dr. Grier-Key and Simmons will ceremoniously "Pass the Baton" to the next generation of activists.

"It will take all of us to collectively bring about change. For so long and by design, the hidden and invisible elements of discrimination and racism were so discrete we've miss them and who's looking for them any way, who wants to be the victim of anything?" Dr. Grier-Key said. "So this event will challenge us all to take another look at how we go about our daily lives, a self examination. How do we now apply this newfound knowledge that equality exists in our backyards and on Main Street? We can't just march, say chants, wear t-shirts, and take to social media, more is required."

Attendees can enjoy live music from Certain Moves (on Stage from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.), Dwayne Kerr on Jazz Flute (on the Lawn from 1:00 to 1:45 p.m.), Winston Irie & Selective Security Band (on Stage from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m.), Yacouba Sissoko on Kora (on the Lawn from 3:00 to 3:45 p.m.) and Project Vibe (on Stage from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.).

"Along with our co-presenters and the help of Daniela Kronemeyer, we have put together an incredibly exciting day full of inspiring speakers, great music, soul food, vendors and more," Kirwin shared.

Representatives from NAACP Eastern Long Island, Voter Registration/Census, Eastville Historical Society, Southampton African American Museum, Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, Zenith Youth Group - Willie Jenkins, Travis Wilkins - Prayer and Spiritual Guidance, Plain Sight Project and more will be available to chat with guests.

Event-goers can leave messages of hope and unity on a large vinyl banner donated by Fisher Signs. Once completed, the community project will be showcased in one of the arches at the front of SAC.

As for bites, Maria Rosario's Empanadas, Native Soul by Niecy Smith, South Fork Bakery and more will be serving up irresistible fare. Tavia Jeffries' wine glasses and lip scrub/lip gloss, Madu Organic Soaps by Nylejah Green and Tiana Grampus and Hair Braiding by Kristine Goree will also be available for purchase.

"Unity Fest" programming will touch upon Black history in pictures ("some content may be upsetting, but is crucially important to see"), The History of Pyrrhus Concer and informative short films to be shown on a loop.

At 7:40 p.m., Tanisha Wingfield-Highsmith will sing Lift Every Voice & Sing.

Then, there will be a pre-screening panel discussion with Killer Bees Filmmakers Orson and Ben Cummings, Coach Carl Johnson, Willie Jenkins, and Brenda Simmons. Dr. Georgette Grier Key will moderate. The viewing will commence at 8:40 p.m.

The 2017 documentary follows legendary Bridgehampton High School coach, Carl Johnson, and his team as they set out to defend their New York State title. One of the team's biggest champions is world-renowned artist, Joe Zucker, who serves as team assistant. The small (the 2018 graduating class had only 14 students), but mighty program has taken home a number of state championships - dating back to the 1980s. The film delves into wealth inequality, racism and gentrification within the community.

"It's crazy. I've been going to the Hamptons for 20-30 years and I thought the Hamptons was all about rich people. But there's another side of the Hamptons that you really don't see," Shaquille O'Neal, who served as a Killer Bees Producer, said. "And this team, they've been winning Championships for the longest time. And it's a great story. When I saw it I called them up and said 'I want to be an Executive Producer.' It's a great film. Check it out."

For those unable to attend, the film, which was named one of Sports Illustrated's Best Sports Documentaries of 2017 and was a New York Times Critic's Pick, is available on Hulu and Amazon Prime.

"With all the hatred, racism, inequities, and atrocities that Black People experience daily, we are proud to partner with the Southampton Arts Center's Day of Unity and screening of Killer Bees," Cannon expressed. "Conversations about social justice must continue, and I believe they will. Change is Here. Change is Now."

As space is limited, advance reservations are strongly encouraged. To reserve a spot, visit www.brownpapertickets.com.

The "Unity Fest" rain date is Saturday, August 1 and there is no fee to attend.

"We will be monitoring the attendance numbers over the course of the day to manage social distancing and masks are required," Kirwan noted.

Southampton Arts Center is located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. For more information, call 631-283-0967 or visit southamptonartscenter.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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