“to use the vehicle of fine arts to provide the total community of Oklahoma with an exposure to the African, African-American/Black culture with a special emphasis on educating Oklahoma’s youth”.
Fixed in Perpetuity the Black Liberated Arts Center Inc., began as an idea of Dr. John L. Smith Jr. A distinguished Principal Tubist with the Oklahoma City Orchestra and music educator. In 1966, Smith moved to Oklahoma, taking a position as assistant professor of music at Langston University, the only historically black college or university (HBCU) in the state of Oklahoma.
In 1969, Smith became chair of Langston University music department, a position he held for three years and in 1971, the university awarded him tenure. In addition to his Principal Tubist role with the Oklahoma City Orchestra, teaching and administrative load, Dr. Smith wrestled with the problem of African Americans expressing themselves about their identity during the when arts was taken out of the schools.
Dr. Smith enlisted the help of Dr. Alfred Cohran, the late Olen Nalley, William Franklin, and Bettye Beatty Wilson to move forward with the idea of using the arts as a means of self-expression. His idea ended up being a compass for the organization’s mission statement.
“to use the vehicle of fine arts to provide the total community of Oklahoma with an exposure to the African, African-American/Black culture with a special emphasis on educating Oklahoma’s youth.”
Smith’s idea of using the arts as a means of self-expression became instrumental in the Oklahoma City’s black community and in the establishment of the Black Liberated Arts Center. With the Oklahoma City’s black community responding spontaneously and collectively to affirm itself in a constructive and creative manner, Black Liberated Arts Center was incorporated as a non-profit presenting arts organization on April 28, 1971.
The organization began with a music component, a literary component, a visual arts component and, finally a theater component. With the continued support of the Oklahoma City’s black community, the organization burst forth in presenting its annual Charlie Christian Jazz festival, its annual Statewide Professional Development Conference for Artists and Educators Arts Integration education programs, and an annual Heritage Awards Recognition and Benefit Dinner.
Since its inception, BLAC Incorporated continues to receive national recognition for programs of great value to the community and has earned a reputation of excellence from the larger Oklahoma City and Oklahoma community.
The organization continues to use its mission along with Smith’s idea of using the arts as a means of self-expression to provide continued support to the Oklahoma City’s black community Artist.