#76: Bianca Mikahn
Poet, hip-hop musician, healer of social woes, youth mentor, activist, goddess — these are just a few of the hats that Denver native Bianca Mikahn wears as she dances through life, touching lives with her lyrical voice and a helping hand. Mikahn’s work places her on many stages, spreading her word at Youth on Record, facilitating the Check Your Head program through Mental Health Colorado and working with the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Jones Theatre, to name a few. And now a few words from a fierce cultural spokeswoman, via the 100CC questionnaire.
Westword: If you could collaborate with anyone in history, who would it be, and why?
Bianca Mikahn: Gil Scott was doing what I wanted to do before I even knew I wanted to do it. All of the Harlem Renaissance for the same reason. If Tesla messed with artists, I’d try to collaborate. Octavia Butler, to write and vision futures with. A track with Aaliyah would have completed me. It's still weird to refer to him in past tense, but Prince would have stunned me into silence, and while I’d like to believe I could create with him, I’d probably just stare and giggle behind my hands. If there’s any artist I missed who highlights how worldly, deep and cool I am, then…them, too.
Who in the world is interesting to you right now, and why?
Everyone is literally interesting to me at the moment. I just had a seedling, and currently assess anyone I experience as a possible player on the stage of my child’s growth, so everyone matters. Creatively, I’m checking many AfroFuturists: Joshua Mays (painter), Oshun (music). Chance the Rapper’s fearless independence. Ai Wei Wei’s bravery. This gal named Sammus, whose flow sets me on fire. The Smith kids, and how they piss everyone off by just lollygagging in the meadows of their own spirit. Mahogany L. Browne and any other artist moms smashing things, ’cause that’s my new M.O.
What's one art trend you want to see die this year?
Exclusion and isolation! I’m am completely exhausted with the one-dimensional artist and the isolation that comes along with that. “Conscious” artists acting like their shit don’t stink and everything must be science. “Drug” rappers acting like life ain’t real and only turning up is relevant. Also, if there’s no women on your show, you’re failing. If there’s only one woman in your crew, you’re failing.
What's your day job?
I’ve authored a curriculum dealing with arts and mental wellness for a program called Check Your Head. I’m also a partner artist with Youth on Record. Any day I can be found writing for the sake of sanity, linking fellow artists with teaching spaces or imparting music fundamentals to the greater DPS populations.
A mystery patron offers you unlimited funds for life. What will you do with it?
It’s interesting, because many of the things I’d do with unlimited funds are projects that are already in the works on some level. I would extend the Youth on Record media studio to accommodate any young person who was interested. I would also establish a connective group to help nonprofits communicate to each other so fewer efforts were unnecessarily duplicated. Free college for all! Slay hunger! Fund genuine safe spaces and increase access to all forms of recovery (from abuse, addiction, etc.). Basically, I’d try to make the world healed enough and available enough to just jam out all day!
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
Oh, my sweet silly city! I adore this place, born and raised. On the playground is where I spent most of my days (except that’s not true…’cause Fresh Prince). It has been exciting and devastating to watch everything change. There was a time where we could complain about nothing cracking in the city. Now we’re one big party, presenting so many new dynamics and challenges. We forgot that when you’re the popular girl, not everyone can sit at your table. I’m concerned about who is being removed from our table, but I’m proud to see our completely unique vibe finally being respected. I want to stay because all eyes are on us…which is also why I sometimes want to leave.
What's the one thing Denver (or Colorado) could do to help the arts?
Denver could help the arts by recognizing and appreciating, to a greater extent, its subcultures and the creations they produce. There are very few outlets for alternative people of color. We have a stellar poetry scene that isn’t universally valued locally. Musicians of color know we are not the type of art that gets support enough to “break” in Colorado. Air Dubai should be at least as valued as the Fray, and no one can really pinpoint why that dynamic exists. I’m also concerned/hopeful about affordable housing. We literally made Cap Hill the spot, then got swept out of our own groove. Of course we’ll make a groove anywhere we go, but we hope to always have a genuine and protected place here.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I just got done with a DCPA run with Suzi Q Smith, who is my play cousin and always inspires me, as does the entire crew at Jones Theatre, from whom I learned a ton during the How I Got Over production (shouts to Toluwanimi Oluwafunmilayo Obiwole, Ralonda Simmons and Jenee Elise!). I come from a tribe of amazing folks, many of whom work with Youth on Record, so basically the whole YOR constituency! Sarah Slater, Piper Rose and the entire Titwrench crew make my heart pound. Cold Crush crew changed how many hip-hoppers view their business and longevity. Thomas Evans and the URBN Media crew are damn near intimidating with their rate of growth, vision and consistency. Mo Speaks, Sheree Brown and the entire SKP (Some Kind of Paradise) fam are always pushing me to grow and see myself more clearly. So many, I’m sure I’m missing folks. I’m really in love with all of us, and feel like this is a genuinely magic place to be.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
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I am working a lot more behind the boards, getting my production game all the way up. I’d like to produce a play live, a full project front to back within the year. I’ve been sitting on an EP produced by Yonnass of BLKHRTS, because the subject matter was about an entire breakdown I survived a few years back, and I’m finally ready to let that go — just finalizing tracks and getting visuals around it. It is past time to put out a book of lyrics and poems. My partner and I are establishing a fun production/performance project called Freqs & Geeks, which should be tons of fun. Activism-wise, I am looking to grow Check Your Head, my arts and mental-wellness program, to continue extending its reach to as many youths as possible. I want to make utilizing art to examine wellness in a broad pre-therapy fashion an accessible and everyday thing.
Who do you think will get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Mace Windu, Los Mocochetes and SKP got next, to name a few. Kayla Marque is going to steal everyone’s hearts in a second here (adding to her already vast collection). Rob4Real already smashes, but that should increase 'cause he’s tops. I really think collectives like Conscious Creatives will aid in diversifying what we expect and accept from our artists (especially of color). The GASPFace is establishing a tour circuit between a few major cities that will positively impact those ready and open. LaRea Martinez (5280 Entertainment) and Ill Se7en are creating a whole new lane for comics and artists. Black Actors Guild deserves its own production at DCPA, and I bet that would/will sell out when it happens. I could keep naming specifics, but really it comes down to those who are fearless and steadfast and experimenting. It’s a perfect time for visionaries!