A Long Talk speaks to ‘Black Party’

After controversy arose from a flyer for a community gathering, organizers state their intent to Oak Bluffs select board.

4
The Black Party Flyer that concerned the Oak Bluffs select board about a flood of people coming to the event that was not permitted.

Representatives from A Long Talk showed their support for and debunked rumors about the organization at an Oak Bluffs select board meeting, following concerns raised about a proposed event dubbed “the Black Party.”

A Long Talk is an “anti-racism activation experience.” Participants complete work materials of multimedia content about the history of racism in the U.S. to provide a common foundation of understanding the issue, according to their website, before three days of virtual conference calls, each 90 minutes. 

“The calls are orchestrated as reflective conversations, where participants are asked to listen, view, and respond in real time. The conversations take place in large and small group settings using the breakout rooms feature,” the website reads.

A Long Talk works with major universities across the country, nonprofits, and with schools on the Island.

Issues arose when a flyer for the Black Party began circulating online. The event was to be held on August 14 from 12 to 4 pm at Waban Park and Inkwell Beach, but was canceled.

At an August 10 meeting, select board chair Brian Packish called advertisements for the Black Party “alarming,” and was concerned about events listed on the flyer that included cards, kickball, double dutch, music, and cornhole.

Concern about the event comes as the Oak Bluffs select board has fielded numerous requests for summer events at public parks, and has been in discussion about how to handle the many requests to appease organizers and abutters.

According to an infographic on A Long Talk’s website, the party was dubbed the Black Party as a play on words from the traditional “block party” concept combined with the “ironic tradition of Black people on MV throwing ‘white parties,’” the graphic reads. “While white parties refer to dress code, for us, the Black Party refers to partying with a purpose.”

The event was to be held in conjunction with an event in the same area put together by Sean Porter, who has held an event for his Urban Farming foundation, which helps to eliminate food deserts in inner cities, for the past three years near Inkwell Beach. 

Porter said he expected around 100 to 200 people, music, and food for his event, which he said he’s held for the past three years.

He distanced himself from the Black Party flyer and its events, saying someone he had met asked if they could tell others about his Urban Farming event.

“This is 40- to 70-year-old, well-to-do African Americans,” Porter said of his event. “I foresee no problem, none.”

Following the August 10 meeting, A Long Talk posted an edited version of the select board meeting on Youtube with text asking what was so alarming about the Black Party and showing text messages that claimed Porter reached out to A Long Talk representatives — instead of the other way around.

Additionally, A Long Talk’s chief empowerment officer, Kyle Williams, created a change.org petition asking for support to “reject a false narrative created against A Long Talk.”

At Tuesday’s select board meeting, members and supporters of A Long Talk joined, bringing the virtual meeting to over 95 participants. Since A Long Talk was not an official agenda item, comments were held until the public comment portion of the meeting, which the board holds at the end of its meetings.

Williams, who is a fourth-generation visitor to the Island, said he wanted to comment on the representation of A Long Talk at the August 10 meeting.

“There were lies and misrepresentations told,” Williams said. “We’ve been in conversation with the permit holder Mr. Porter since late June, early July. So this narrative that we just jumped in here and tried to take over something is absolutely untrue.”

He added that the community of A Long Talk believes racism is a virus, and is committed to making spaces better for everybody.

“It’s not about white and black. It’s not about conservative and liberal. It’s not about all these other things that people want to put us in boxes. It’s about everybody versus racism,” Williams said. “It was a celebration of Black joy … we were inviting our people, the non-Black people, to celebrate with us.”

Select board member Jason Balboni chimed in that he and other board members suggested an extra police presence at the August 10 meeting because they heard the event was going to have 400 or more attendees.

“We take our jobs seriously in keeping the town safe. That’s not safe from you or me or anybody else. That’s just safe — people crossing the road, getting to the park, things like that,” Balboni said. “You are correct, we do need to end racism. That’s not an idea, that’s something that needs to happen.”

He went on to say he appreciated the work of A Long Talk.

Assistant superintendent of Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools Richie Smith gave his support for A Long Talk and people to take part in the program.

Oak Bluffs Association executive director Christine Todd said she wanted to see more year-round collaboration and conversation.

The comments section of the Zoom was flooded with comments in support of A Long Talk such as “Proud to be a part of A Long Talk,” “End racism!” and “Fully support A Long Talk and all of its endeavors.”

The board did not deliberate, and adjourned the meeting.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I am a graduate of A Long Talk. I take offense at the idea of a party which excludes any race.
    It seems that the ideals of A Long Talk are contrary to the actions of a Black Party. Racial understanding is what we need now not a divisive action.

    • Hi Carole: maybe you missed the full invitation to the event (see below). It was not exclusionary at all. It is intriguing to me that somehow labelling something as “Black” somehow informs white people that they aren’t welcome. Just a reminder of the importance of the work we are doing and how much more is left to be done.

      At A Long Talk we are known for having uncomfortable conversations about racism and asking questions that help all of us gain a deeper understanding of its impact. Admittedly our mission and purpose carry a lot of weight and while we work 24/7/365 to eradicate racism and dismantle white supremacy in America, we also love to turn up, chill out, and party down when we get the chance! To that end, we decided to throw a party and we are calling it “The Black Party”. If you’ve never heard of or attended a Black Party before, join the crowd. We just made it up. Now we recognize that you may have some questions…

      “I don’t get it. Why does it have to be called a BLACK party?”

      “Is EVERYONE invited, or just Black people?”

      “I mean, I’m not really saying that “ALL parties matter”, but isn’t it kinda divisive to create a party focused on celebrating Blackness on Martha’s Vineyard?”

      “Maybe more people would come if you just called it something else!”

      “Is this considered my “invitation to the cookout” that I’ve heard so much about??”

      Let me attempt to answer these questions this way:

      The naming of The Black Party comes from a play on words of the more traditional “block party” concept, combined with the ironic tradition of Black people on MV throwing “white parties”. While white parties refer to dress code, for us, the Black party refers to partying with a purpose.

      Of course everyone is invited to celebrate with us. We are community builders.

      Stop it.

      Stop it.

      Not quite…those seats require a bit more work. BUT, this is your invitation to experience and appreciate an event filled with the sights, sounds, and tastes of Black people, Black music, Black cuisine, and Black family fun.

      So now that we’ve cleared that up, we formally invite you to join us on Saturday, August 14, 2021, at the historic Inkwell/Waban Park from 12-4 pm to party with the purpose of getting to know each other better and bringing this entire island together to create a more perfect union for all of us.

      Peace & Power,

      Kyle Ralf Williams,

      Great-grandson of Ralf & Luella Coleman, veteran of 49 Vineyard summers, and visitor on this stolen land

  2. The initial proposal by A Long Talk for the “Black Party”was not in line with what was stated to the Board of Selectman. If A Long Talk wanted a platform to speak they should have sought a permit themselves, and not use someone else’s event. That is what leadership does. The parody video they distributed on different social media platforms does not advance their mission and poorly reflects on the leadership of this organization.

  3. John, you speak as if you know something about this issue or that you know the people you consider to be the leadership. I don’t know you or your connection to this but I appreciate that you felt connected enough to post a comment. Part of what we do at A Long Talk is to encourage conversation so that we can all better understand the things that are happening around us. In that spirit, if you are able and interested, let’s talk and I can inform you on some of the facts that you have wrong here. You can also get a chance to meet the leadership personally and be able to make more informed determinations about our gifts and abilities. Let me know what works for you. kyle@alongtalk.com

Comments are closed.