When a Philadelphia father and art-lover moved to Portland, Maine, it was hard for him not to notice a lack of diversity, especially on the art scene.
“Being in Maine, there’s almost no representation for young black kids,” Joshua Hughes told Bangor Daily News. “When I look around, I see people who struggle with the sense of identity.”
He could have ignored it, but he decided instead, to do something.
Hughes, an artist and musician himself, started a crowdfunding initiative to bring a high-sensory musical featuring an all-Black cast to Maine, a state with a Black population of less than 1.5 percent.
Dubbed “Black Kid Joy,” the musical follows a Black boy’s journey to discover who he is through a rich history.
The cast of more than 30 dancers, singers, actors and musicians features three lead actors who are all under 21 years old, and the main character is 8 years old, according to the John Graves production company.
Hughes, the show’s executive producer, told the Bangor Daily News he was so impressed with the show last winter that he contacted writer and director John Graves III and pitched him the idea of bringing the show to Portland.
In one month, Hughes assembled a team that raised more than $4,000 of a $6,000 GoFundMe goal to be able to offer the show to children for free.
“It is my goal to have 800-1,000 African/African-American young adults in attendance to view the production, Black kid joy,” a member of Hughes’ fundraising team said on GoFundMe.
It’s unclear if the production team will meet that goal, but it has sold out two Saturday matinees, according to John Graves Productions.
Graves, as well as many of the donors, said they recognize how important bringing the production to Maine is.
Graves was looking for a Black production company in Maine to partner with and couldn’t find one. He later learned that’s because there aren’t any.
“So the need is apparent and obvious,” he said in an interview with Atlanta Black Star.
Others who contributed to the cause said bringing the show to Maine was an important first step to improving diversity in the arts.
Donor Evadne Bryan Perkins said Maine needs more Black production and art, and donor Dave Barrett agreed.
“Representation is so important,” he said.
Hughes said in addition to improving diversity, he also just wanted to bring something “colorful and bright, entertaining and rich to Portland.”
“#BlackKidJoy is that and more,” he said online.
The show will be held this weekend in Portland, and tickets are available online.