From left, Atiim Chenzira, Firefly (Jason Brown) and Maya Williams will perform for a Kennedy Center digital event this month. Courtesy of Portland Ovations

Three artists of color will represent Maine’s diversity and culture when they perform this month in a digital series presented by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, “Arts Across America.”

The Kennedy Center is working with arts organizations across the country to produce 20 weeks of free, online programming designed to showcase a range of art and artists. For the focus on Maine, it teamed with Portland Ovations and Indigo Arts Alliance for a program at 4 p.m. Nov. 30 that will feature Firefly, a Penobscot who performs traditional and contemporary songs with a dramatic, theatrical flair; Atiim Chenzira, a poet and spoken-word artist who explores his African roots and identity as a new Mainer through hip-hop soul and jazz; and Maya Williams, a Portland poet who explores suicide, racism and other issues.

The Kennedy Center will carry the prerecorded performances on Facebook Live, YouTube and through its website. It is one of several online events involving Portland Ovations in coming days and weeks.

On Thursday, also in collaboration with Indigo, it presents a virtual performance of the piece “FLEX AVE” with performer Reggie “Regg Roc” Gray and his Brooklyn-based troupe. They specialize in what is known as flexing, a high-energy and relatively new performance style that conveys stories of personal triumph over things like violence, mental illness and the loss of life.

The livestreamed performance begins at 7 p.m. with donations suggested. Registration is available through the Portland Ovations’ website. People who tune in should expect a mix of group and solo works, both choreographed and improvisational, set to mix of reggae, hop-hop and pop music. The performance style developed in Jamaica and has spread across pop culture, said Aimee Petrin, executive and artistic director of Portland Ovations. “So often, we experience art and artists working in forms long developed and long known,” she said. “These artists are on the leading edge of creating something new and of this moment.”

The digital event with the Kennedy Center on Nov. 30 offers a national platform for the Maine performers, as well as a chance for Maine to be represented with diversity on that platform, said Marcia Minter, Indigo’s executive director. The artists will perform work they’ve created that address personal issues related to their identities, she said. “We wanted voices who were honest, forthright and not afraid to speak the truth,” Minter said. “We wanted to bring a lens to Maine that people don’t expect, especially at the national level. We want to flip the narrative about what Maine is and who lives here. We want to bring broader awareness of the diversity that exists in our state and in New England in general.”

Firefly is the stage name of Jason Brown, a member of the Penobscot nation, who is also a jewelry designer and maker. He and his wife, Donna Decontie-Brown, operate the Bangor-based jewelry and fashion studio Decontie & Brown. On stage as Firefly, he adorns himself with colorful fashion and performs songs with vocals, hand drums and shakers set to contemporary and traditional music. It’s a high-energy, colorful production that combines Brown’s creative interests.

Chenzira is a musician, songwriter, spoken-word artist and sound engineer from Oakland, California, now living in Portland. In addition to serving on Indigo’s advisory council, he’s also a former employee of Portland Ovations. “Giving him the opportunity to showcase a side of what he has to offer seemed like to no-brainer to me,” Minter said. “He is an African-American man bringing that perspective of what it is like to be an African-American male in this country to his artistry and to his craft.”

Williams, from Greensboro, North Carolina, identifies as a Black, mixed-race queer suicide survivor, and addresses all of that in her work. She hosts Port Veritas open mics, and won a PortFringe Audience Choice Award. She has lived in Portland since 2017. “Maya is a brilliant poet,” Minter said. “The fact that she identifies as African-American, is biracial and is gender-fluid made hers a wonderful voice to represent many perspectives.”

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