Northampton to host its second Power of Truths Arts & Education Festival


Staff Writer

Published: 04-25-2023 1:10 PM

NORTHAMPTON — For the second year in a row, the Northampton Arts Council has joined forces with a local education company to produce the Power of Truths Arts & Education Festival, a two-day event designed to use the arts as a means to promote social change.

The festival, which takes place April 29-30 at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Integrity in Florence, offers a range of workshops, discussions, and performances that will explore public art, reparations, U.S. history, and the history of hip hop, among other subjects.

It’s a collaboration between the Arts Council and Self-Evident Education, a Florence company that produces multimedia presentations for schools and community centers that examine the history of slavery and racism in the U.S., and how those issues continue to reverberate today.

The company’s principal founder, former Amherst teacher Michael Lawrence-Riddell, worked last year with Steve Sanderson, event producer for the Arts Council, to develop the festival’s basic concepts. Another key contributor is Florence writer and historian Ousmane Power-Greene, who teaches history at Clark University in Worcester.

As Sanderson told the Gazette last year, “Michael and I got to talking about an event that combined the arts with education and a way of looking at how the past informs the present.”

The year’s festival begins Saturday with a 10 a.m. registration/check-in and is followed by a number of workshops in the morning and afternoon, with a break for lunch.

From 7-10 p.m., “Know the Ledge: Hip-Hop History Live” will offer a mix of theater, storytelling, history and hip hop to “tell important and often overlooked stories from the history of our country,” as program notes put it. Artists from multiple disciplines, including Dutch Rebelle, Afrobatik, and Khalif Neville, will lead the session.

Additional workshops and presentations take place Sunday from 11 a.m. to about 4 p.m.

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Among the festival speakers is Ilyon Woo, author of the acclaimed history “Master Slave Husband Wife,” an account of how an enslaved couple escaped from the U.S. South in 1848 by posing as a master and her slave. The Wall Street Journal calls Woo’s book “A narrative of such courage and resourcefulness it seems too dashing to be true. But it is.”

Also speaking will be Kellie Carter Jackson, an historian and professor at Wellesley College and the award-winning author of “Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence,” a study of the direct action blacks took to fight slavery in the 19th century.

Self-Evident Education will also screen its new video production, which covers the story from “Master Slave Husband Wife.”

More information on the festival, including ticket options, is available at

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at