Southampton Arts Center’s Unity Fest Celebrates Black Culture on July 26

Scene from "Killer Bees," Photo: Courtesy SAC
Scene from "Killer Bees," Photo: Courtesy SAC

Southampton Arts Center (SAC) will present the first-ever “Unity Fest,” inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, on Sunday, July 26. It’s being held in collaboration with Bridgehampton Child Care & Recreational Center, Eastville Community Historical Society and the Southampton African American Museum.

The day, which begins at 11:30 a.m., is to offer community members a chance to come together to support equality and social justice, while celebrating African American and Afro Indigenous culture on the East End.

The grounds of SAC will play host to multi-culturally-owned businesses and organizations. It will be a day to celebrate unity with music, speeches, food and art, and it will conclude with a screening of the 2017 Bridgehampton High School basketball documentary Killer Bees, a film produced by Shaquille O’Neal.

“After planning the screening of Killer Bees with the Cummings brothers, we all felt there was an opportunity to celebrate unity all day leading up to the film, which is what became Unity Fest,” says Amy Kirwin, the Southampton Arts Center’s artistic director. “With the help of our co-presenters we have put together an incredibly exciting day full of inspiring speakers, great music, soul food, vendors and more. We will also be closely monitoring the attendance numbers over the course of the day to manage social distancing, and masks are required.”

Live music throughout the day will include performances by Certain Moves, Dwayne Kerr on Jazz Flute, Winston Irie & Selective Security Band, Yacouba Sissoko on Kora and Project Vibe.

A welcome address from Kirwin along with Brenda Simmons of Southampton African American Museum and Dr. Georgette Grier-Key of Eastville Historical Society will kick off the day. Speakers, including Trevon Jenkins, Paul Jeffers, Minerva Perez, Billy Moss, Travis Wilkins, Lisa Votino and Larry Street, will follow. Later in the day, Simmons and Grier-Key will ceremoniously “pass the baton” to the next generation of activists.

The event will also include community art. Attendees are asked to draw images or write messages of hope on a vinyl banner, which will later be displayed in one of the arches at the front of the building.

Food will include Maria Rosario’s Empanadas, Native Soul by Niecy Smith and South Fork Bakery. Information booths set up on the grounds will include NAACP Eastern Long Island, Voter Registration and Census, Zenith Youth Group, Sylvester Manor and more. In studio, short films on a loop and Black history in pictures will be displayed.

At 7:40 p.m., Prior to the Killer Bees screening, Tanisha Wingfield-Highsmith will sing “Lift Every Voice & Sing.” There will then be a pre-screening panel discussion moderated by Grier-Key. Panelists include filmmakers Orson and Ben Cummings, Coach Carl Johnson, Jenkins and Simmons.

The film, which was directed by Bobby Hopson, shows legendary coach Johnson, as he leads four seniors and one freshman to defend their New York State title.

“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. 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,” O’Neal says.

For a full schedule of events and to sign up for the free screening (space is limited), visit southamptonartscenter.org.

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