“Elevating Voices” airs Thursday night, featuring founders of Indigo Arts Project
and leader of Somali Bantu Community Association
Bangor, ME (May 20, 2021): Feelings of isolation are not unfamiliar to diverse individuals in predominantly white communities, but despite a year of unprecedented detachment, these business owners were able to build strong networks of support for diverse populations throughout Maine. Marcia and Daniel Minter nurtured a spirit of collaboration, innovation and mentorship for creatives across the state and country; while Muhdin Libah fostered the cultural traditions and practices of his tightly knit Somalian Bantu community to farm sustainable, organic produce.
These local business owners bring history, culture and visions for the future to the communities in Portland and Wales, where their hard work, determination and contributions make Maine the special place it is. Now their stories will be shared during the third episode of the Maine Public Television series “Elevating Voices” on Thursday, May 20th.
Viewers will learn about the incredible work and life of the Minters, founders of Indigo Arts Alliance and artists themselves, and Libah, Executive Director of the Somali Bantu Community Association that is responsible for leasing, running and operating Little Jubba Central Maine Agrarian Commons. The series, brought to the region by Greenlight Maine and Bangor Savings Bank, is highlighting diversity in Maine businesses to celebrate the often-unsung heroes who are enriching, expanding and driving Maine’s culture, community and economy.
Marcia and Daniel Minter came to Maine after having lived in major cities across the country, to start the Indigo Arts Alliance. The Alliance, reclaiming the slave trade cash crop once a symbol of royalty, centers on two principals: cultivating and celebrating art as a resource for healthy communities; and centering the visionary and inspirational roles artists play in building a more humane, inclusive and just world.
Daniel Minter, a visual artist and teacher at Maine College of Art, explores themes of displacement and diaspora; ordinary and extraordinary blackness; spirituality in the Afro-Atlantic world; and the meaning of home across painting, assemblage, sculpture, and illustration. In Marcia’s work on the Maine Arts Commission and as a Trustee of the Portland Museum of Art and Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, she strives to represent the voices, talents, and citizen constituents of underrepresented creatives, and to foster creativity in all forms through advocacy, community leadership and cultural activism.
“It would be easy to imagine what Maine would look like if the artists of color were not here,” said Daniel Minter, “because it was that way for a long time. Our work was not necessarily included in the texture and fabric of the creative community that’s in this area.”
Entering the pandemic in the infancy of the Indigo Arts Alliance, the Minters aptly wove themselves into the virtual community, solidifying their roles as community leaders and activists. The first pandemic shutdown occurred the day after their last event in March, and by that weekend they were hosting virtual artist talks with now-remote artists in residency. They launched the Beautiful Blackbird Book Festival online, moving it up two months, and expanded it from one day to three months of programming celebrating diversity in children’s literature, which reached over 100,000 people. The couple also hosted two virtual artists in residency. Having flourished under pressure, the Minters look forward to strengthening their community in-person soon.
“As people of color, we always have to hit the ground running,” said Marcia Minter. “It’s always about demonstrating improvement.”
In August of 2020, the Somali Bantu Community Association (SBCA), under the leadership of Muhdin Libah, acquired over 150 acres of land in Wales, Maine to create a permanent home for their organization and land security for over 210 families under the SBCA’s Liberation Farms program. The group formed in 2014, but struggled to find a long-term home, relocating six times from rented land. Limited access to funds, credit and aid often bars refugee communities, such as theirs, from purchasing land, an imbalance their partners Slow Money Maine, The Cooperative Development Institute, Agrarian Trust, Land for Good, and Maine Farmland Trust seek to correct. Little Jubba marks one of twelve Agrarian Commons nation-wide and three in New England, creating pathways to financial, land, human, and community equity.
“We’re not impacting only families in Maine,” Libah said. “We are impacting families in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and New York. People come together to roast corn, talk about their stories back home in Africa, and bring food back home to their families.”
Libah landed in the U.S. in 2004, having fled Somalia’s Jubba valley, the Maine farm’s namesake, living briefly in a refugee camp in Kenya before arriving in upstate New York. As one of the only people in his community who could speak English upon arrival, he was contacted by members of the Somali Bantu community in Maine to help set up a nonprofit organization. Among 3,000 refugees who had resettled in Maine, Libah led the charge in surveying and cultivating land as a co-founder and Executive Director of the Somali Bantu Community Association. The community’s Liberation Farms program provides land for refugees to farm and sell from, creating pathways to financial independence, and providing healthy, organic food to the local community. Alongside farming organic vegetables and flint corn, this Somali Bantu community uses their shared space to build families, practice traditions, and create art—bridging the cultural divide and isolation refugees often face. All land is farmed regeneratively, sustaining the environment in which they work, alongside the community it builds.
The Minters and Libah will grant viewers a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the challenges, triumphs, and importance of diverse business owners in Maine. The series premiered on Thursday, April 29, featuring Thomas Douglas, founding partner of law firm Douglas, McDaniel & Campo LLC, PA, and Ebenezer Akakpo of Akakpo Designs. The second episode, which aired on Thursday, May 6, featured Adele Masengo Ngoy, founder of Adele Masengo Designs and owner of Antoine’s Tailor Shop and Formal Wear, and Jason Brown and Donna Decontie-Brown, founders and creative engines behind Decontie & Brown. Last week, the third episode featured Katherine Slevin, Iman Enan, and Ange Bonheur from C. Love Cookie Company, alongside Adrian Espinoza of Empanada Club. Watch the series premier here, the second episode here, and the third here.
The “Elevating Voices” series is underwritten by Bangor Savings Bank and produced by Greenlight Maine. Along with the visibility, each featured business owner is receiving a $5,000 gift from Bangor Savings Bank.
“At Bangor Savings Bank, we are deeply committed to heightening and expanding our DEI promise by finding innovative ways to support Maine communities and our small businesses throughout the pandemic and beyond,” said Isla Dickerson, Executive Producer and Co-Creator of Elevating Voices, and SVP and Director of Marketing & Community Relations at Bangor Savings Bank. “‘Elevating Voices’ is the result of the longstanding racial injustices in our country that were intensified by the events over the past year, the pandemic, the fact that our small businesses – the lifeblood of our economy and way of life in Maine – were struggling to survive, and the clear need to elevate and support diverse businesses and their tremendous contributions to the state. We are proud to have worked with Greenlight Maine to create and bring this tremendous series to life.”
How to Watch
Viewers can tune in at 8:00 p.m. on Thursdays to one of the following Maine Public Television stations: WCBB 10 Augusta, WMEB-TV 12 Orono, WMED-TV 10 Calais, WMEM-TV 10 Presque Isle and WMEA-TV 45 Biddeford. The series will be rebroadcasted on Sundays at 5:30 p.m.
About Bangor Savings Bank
Bangor Savings Bank, with more than $6 billion in assets, offers retail banking to consumers as well as comprehensive commercial, corporate, payroll administration, merchant services, and small business banking services to businesses. The Bank, founded in 1852, is in its 169th year with more than 60 branches in Maine and New Hampshire and business offices in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The Bangor Savings Bank Foundation was created in 1997. Together the Bank and its Foundation invested more than $3.4 million into the community in the form of sponsorships, grants, and partnership initiatives last year. Bangor Savings Bank is an equal opportunity employer and can be found on the Web at www.bangor.com. Member FDIC.
About Greenlight Maine
Greenlight Maine is a statewide collaboration of entrepreneurial catalysts and corporate leaders. The television and internet series is designed to highlight, promote and encourage the development and growth of entrepreneurial businesses in Maine by showcasing the unique, creative and inspirational activity that is being generated by small businesses. In doing so, the program encourages investment in these companies while inspiring others to grow Maine’s economy. Now in its sixth season, Greenlight Maine has a new home on Maine Public Television. In addition to its original Head-to-Head Series and recent College Edition, Greenlight Maine has added Elevating Voices, a new series that celebrates diverse business owners and their importance to Maine’s economy.