Wisdom of the Cypher: Toni Blackman
Sat., Aug. 2, 8 p.m. and Sun., Aug. 3, 2 p.m. 2014
Toni Blackman probably isn’t a name you’ve heard if your scope of hip-hop is limited to commercial radio playlists, Viacom-run cable networks, or that woefully named online entity WorldStarHipHop. But for the past 20 years, she’s been in the trenches as a hip-hop activist, teacher, writer, and actress. In the world premiere of her new hip-hop theater piece, Wisdom of the Cypher, she’ll attempt to fuse all those roles into one. The cypher Blackman refers to isn’t some ancient symbology but the magical circle artists form to exchange ideas — or, in this case, spit freestyles. Through her world travels as the first hip-hop artist chosen by the U.S. State Department to serve as an American cultural specialist, she’s used hip-hop cyphers as an extension of cross-cultural communication, personal healing, and community uplift. At the show’s close, audience members will have the chance to become actor-participants in an impromptu cypher on stage. The show is part of National Black Arts Festival’s 2014 schedule.