Although it seems like we have been stuck in winter going on six months, the weather is finally breaking and it’s time for summer in the NYC. This May, one organization is striving to the change the narrative of Black LGBTQ culture by curating a festival centering holistic care through the arts, bringing people into a room where everyone has a seat at the table.
MOBIFEST is an interactive arts experience that celebrates Black queer voices in fashion, music, visual arts, and media. With a focus on wellness, MOBI (Mobilizing Our Brothers Initiative) connects individuals to opportunities to better themselves before and during the event.
I recently spoke with founder and OUT 100 Award recipient Dashawn Usher about MOBI’s first ever festival, and some of the plans he has for the future of game changing organization.
What is MOBI and MOBIFEST?
MOBI is an organization that is centered around black gay and queer men to see their holistic self through community wellness and personal development. MOBIFEST is a continuation of our community connectivity. It’s really about taking ownership of your health. We are celebrating black queer in different industries like the arts, media, entertainment, music. We are bringing in all the different industries to really amplify and connect the community to voices we probably would never have in the same room or see each other. The cool things is people earn a ticket into the festival by choosing how they want to engage in their health and wellness, so they take ownership of their health.
Festival-goers will be able to join us for multi-day exclusive events and showcases, from Thursday, May 17th to Saturday, May 19th that highlight key influencers and community connects, while celebrating wellness. The best part–the events are all free. MOBI is encouraging the community to take ownership of their health and wellness by visiting one of our community partners to receive a free service for an advanced ticket into MOBIfest. D∆WN, aka Dawn Richard formerly of the pop powerhouse Danity Kane, will headline the festival on Saturday, May 19th with a concert at Melrose Ballroom in Queens.
What was your motivation behind having Dawn as the headliner, and who else can we expect to see?
When it comes to Dawn, we really wanted a headliner who has been a staple in our community, and really supportive of our community. She has always been super supportive. For us it was important to find somebody who had a connection, but also an influence that was really aligned to headline the first festival.
We have Laquan Dawson who is a Black queer artist who will be creating original content for the Saturday event that would showcase more along the lines the identity and complexity of being a black gay and queer man. We are also working with Jay Joseph who is an art curator with a really large following in the art community to curate the art event on Friday, May 18th. That event is centered around the different identities and complexity of being masculine in the black LGBTQ community.
We are working with Monica Sunbeam, panelists from the show Pose, Robert Ball is also going to be performing. It’s a bunch of everybody lol.
What do you see for the future of MOBI and expansion?
We are hopefully looking to expand outside of the NYC area. In January we did a MOBI Talks in Atlanta which had a little over 120 guys. So in the summer we will have MOBI Talks again in Alabama so we can take these conversations outside of NYC. In May we will be having a MOBI Talks in Newark, NJ.
Ideally we really want to amplify the network of MOBI and hopefully be in a space to put on these events and connect the people to resources that are locally available but also raises the visibility of the Black gay queer community on a local level.
I’m super excited to have the support and momentum going into the festival from various community partners and the community as a whole. The goal at first was just to build back up this black gay community inside of NYC, but now we are doing it across the U.S. and it’s beautiful to see in real time.