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Previous MasterMinds: Café Nuba

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This week, as we look forward to this year's MasterMind awards, we check in with previous MasterMinds.

Café Nuba founder Ashara Ekundayo says her 2006 MasterMind win for literary arts was an acknowledgement of the group’s work as a community servant. “Café Nuba is such a guerilla arts underground community experiment really, even though it’s been nine years now, it’ still an experiment for us.” The money, like all the money Café Nuba makes, got recycled right back into the project, even as people were telling Ekundayo she should keep some to stop her house from going into foreclosure. Thankfully, she still has her house, and Café Nuba’s programs are still thriving.

Café Nuba doesn’t fit into one art genre, and it attracts a cross section of not only the arts community in Denver, but people who are just curious about social change and the racial connotation. Café Nuba is the city’s “hot and black” poetry reading, but it’s only a black reading compared to other poetry readings around town, Ekundayo says. “Nuba is by far the most diverse spoken word and music showcase in the city, if not the state.”

In 2006, Café Nuba was just starting to get some media attention, with projects like the series of programs they produced for Free Speech TV. The money and momentum from MasterMind has helped maintain a media presence for Café Nuba, on Denver OpenMedia, and independent radio shows.

Of late, Café Nuba has continued producing spoken word events, both locally and on the Internet. Podslam.org is an online slam poetry competition exposing poets from around the country. The project is being produced in association with The Just Media Fund, which is part of the Denver Foundation that funds “just media,” or projects that served communities often overlooked by mainstream media. Thus far, Ekundayo is a huge fan. “They just finished an amazing documentary called Iron Ladies of Liberia. It’s brilliant,” she says. “I have great respect for their ability to stay rooted in guerilla arts, and do something as innovative as Podslam.org. That’s the shit for real. That’s the kind of work that should be lauded.” -- Jessica Centers

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