Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought and Amistad Research Center Present: A Night of Music, Poetry, and Conversation with Leyla McCalla and Kalamu ya Salaam
September 14, 2023 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought, together with our partner the Amistad Research Center, invite you to join us for a night of music, poetry, and conversation with Amistad-Rivers Research Resident Leyla McCalla and the poet, activist, and educator Kalam ya Salaam on Thursday, September 14, 2023, at the New Orleans Jazz Museum.

McCalla and Salaam will discuss the importance of collective histories and storytelling in their own respective practices as New Orleans artists, using song and voice as a provocation for engaging culture and politics. This conversation will be moderated by Jordan Amirkhani (Curator and Head of Research and Project Development, Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought).

We hope you will join us to learn more about McCalla and Salaam’s practices, our partnership with Amistad Research Center, and the art that collaboration makes possible.

3rd Floor Performance Space
The New Orleans Jazz Museum (the Old U.S. Mint)
400 Esplanade Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70116 

Doors and bar open at 6:00pm, the conversation will begin promptly at 6:30pm.

Attendance is free and open to the public, but due to limited seating, we strongly encourage you to RSVP on our Eventbrite link and arrive early to secure your seats.

Leyla McCalla is a Haitian-American multi-instrumentalist based in New Orleans. Her music vibrates with three centuries of history, sonically blending New Orleans influences and Haitian rhythms on cello, banjo & guitar, with lyrics sung in English, French and Haitian Kreyol. In addition to her solo work, McCalla is a co-founder of Our Native Daughters (with Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah and Allison Russell), and was the cellist for Grammy-award-winning string band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Leyla’s new release Breaking the Thermometer (ANTI Records), is the album companion to a multidisciplinary music, dance and theatre work which follows Leyla’s personal journey as she uncovers the history of Radio Haiti, the first radio station in Haiti to report news in Haitian Kreyol. Breaking the Thermometer was named one of the Best Albums of 2022 by many outlets including The Guardian, Variety and NPR Music, and her song “Dodinin” made Barack Obama’s short list of 2022 favorites.

Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Kalamu ya Salaam was enchanted by the work of Langston Hughes from a young age. By the 1994 conference, Salaam was already a well-respected poet, writer and social activist whose works included The Blues Merchant (1969), Hofu Ni Kwenu (My Fear Is For You) (1973), Pamoja Tutashinda (Together We Will Win) (1974), Ibura (1976), Revolutionary Love (1978), (1979), A Nation of Poets (1989), and others. After the conference, Salaam has continued to publish, such as his recent Be about Beauty (2018) and New Orleans Griot: The Tom Dent Reader (2019). Salaam was the founder of BLCKARTSOUTH, served as an editor for the Black Collegian and QBR: The Black Book Review, and was also founder and director of the NOMMO Literary Society, a New Orleans-based Black writers’ workshop. His awarded distinctions include but are not limited to a George Washington Freedom Foundation Award, a Deep South Writer’s Contest Award, and a CAC Regional New Play Competition Award.