One event that refuses to give in to pandemic demands is the Black Diamond Ball, an annual fundraiser hosted by ArtXperiential Projects, celebrating Black History Month by supporting Black youth and Black-owned businesses.
The virtual event begins on the Hopin.to online platform on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.
Shawn Cuffie, founder and director of operations, this year introduced a virtual market place that drives traffic to various businesses.
“We have partnered over 85 Black businesses this month,” Cuffie said. “Next steps are to get people shopping and supporting these Black businesses. If we each buy one thing from a Black-owned business, it can make such a difference for the community”.
A press release stated these businesses have expressed gratitude for the efforts. But success came with its share of challenges.
COVID-19s unpredictable nature cast doubt upon the event. According to Cuffie, Black Diamond Ball could have been cancelled because of the challenge of confirming commitments and gaining financial support as a result of the pandemic.
“It was challenging to decide if we were going to pivot or skip a year,” he said.
But the event has continued and now features artists like Will Leathers, a trumpet-playing prodigy who is no stranger to pandemic performances. Although he has performed in unusual scenarios like “a drive-in entertainment centre where everyone stayed in their cars” while he performed on stage, virtual performances like this one are still challenging. It is much more complex than practising, preparing and walking on stage.
“For a virtual show, I go through a process of recording myself in the studio, mixing and mastering myself along with the backing track, getting footage of my performance, and editing the footage and audio files into a complete musical presentation,” Leathers said.
Proceeds from this year’s Black Diamond Ball will go to OCADU’s Black Youth Design Initiative and The #SafeSpace365, a youth-managed initiative by ArtXperiential Projects. The event is to be promoted on Rogers Communications media platforms, as well as getting television coverage from CityTV on Feb. 28 at 5 p.m.