Jason Selman is not your average artist. Already established as a jack-of-all-trades performance artist in Montreal’s black community, Selman has been announced as this year’s recipient of the Gloria Mitchell-Aleong Award, allowing him to share his artistry with even more people.
The Gloria Mitchell-Aleong Award recognizes young emerging Montreal artists between the ages of 20 and 35. This year, Jason Selman was recognized for his commitment and talent in the performing arts.
Selman has been a well-respected poet and musician in the Montreal arts scene for over 10 years now. “For me, it comes down to being raised in a way that identity and community matter,” said Selman. The humble performance artist explained that his desire to give back to his community came naturally, though he credits the Black Theatre Workshop for fueling his passion. “Artistically, the work began with doing poetry workshops for youth at Black Theatre Workshop and then working full time at the Black Community Resource Centre,” stated Selman.
One of the projects that he is involved with is Kalmunity, a performance group that promotes improvisation through various mediums. “The founder, Jah Sun, asked me whether I would be involved with a new weekly improv music night, and of course, I said yes,” said Selman. “I had no idea that it would become as wonderful and all encompassing as it has.”
Since 2003, Selman has also run poetry workshops for the Black Theatre Workshop’s YouthWorks, a multidisciplinary theatre program for black youth. In addition to theatre performance and poetry, the program also promotes singing and dancing.
Selman has produced two plays: Death of the Bourgeois Dream in 2006, which was performed by the members of YouthWorks; and Birth of the last Black Prince in 2008. Selman can also add being a published author to his list of accomplishments; he released two poetry collection, Psychological (2003) and The Freedom I Stole (2007). He also co-edited Talking Book, an anthology featuring the writings of the participants of Kalmunity. Selman is the producer of the poetry, music and song series Intimate Sky, which features members of Montreal’s jazz and blues community. Selman is also involved in hip hop group Nomadic Massive.
Selman graduated from Concordia University with a BFA in jazz studies. “Concordia gave me certainty, a chance to try things out,” explained Selman. “Before I did my degree in music, I did two years in engineering before switching out.” The news of Selman’s win comes right at the beginning of Black History Month, and the award is clearly celebrated by his community. “The recognition that stands out for me is the appreciation of my artistic peers and thank yous from the audience,” said Selman. “To win an award is something new and it feels great.”
According to Selman, Black History Month is a time of celebration for all. “I would say that it’s a great opportunity to learn, because most of us have a very limited knowledge of Africa, blacks in the Americas or anywhere else,” explained Selman. “There is always more to learn about black history in February or any time of year.”