The panel featured, from left, Tanisha Duncan, Stephanie Rhythm Keene, Melissa Simpson, moderator Nasya Gay, Danielle Jeter and Valerie Gay. — Tribune photo by Samaria Bailey

The Art Sanctuary is hosting free dance, writing and music programs for the entire month of July in honor of the 34th annual Celebration of Black Arts Festival.

Originally founded as a celebration of Black writing that attracted Black writers from across the country, the festival has grown into a resource for education, fellowship and community building, open to everybody.

“It’s one of the few places in our city where any person in our community can come and feed their souls for free, to learn about their culture, to actually do the work, not just be a spectator but to learn how to dance, to learn how to write, to learn how to write music, to really participate, and then to see great art in our gallery,” said Valerie V. Gay, Art Sanctuary executive director.

One of the main events, “Brand Your Cool: A Panel with Women Self Starters,” featuring small-business owners Danielle P. Jeter, founder of Women in Media; Melissa Simpson, freelance journalist; Stephanie Rhythm Keene, owner of Incense, Trap and Yoga; and Tanisha Duncan Wedding, lifestyle and editorial photographer, was hosted on Friday. The women shared lessons learned from running a small business.

“Don’t be afraid. You’re never going to have it all together,” said Duncan. “There’s going to be something wrong that could potentially prevent you from starting your business. You have to jump and do that. Just jump.”

Jeter stressed the importance of planning for growth, especially to build for future generations.

“I don’t think every generation should start from the bottom. So, I’m working extremely hard so that our next generation doesn’t have to start from the bottom,” she said, adding that entrepreneurs should plan “two to three years out” and create a “legacy plan, so we can have young people who can be in position to make sure there are businesses to live on.”

Keene encouraged women to have confidence in themselves and their ideas.

“Know you are, know what you want, do what you love, know that there is room for you,” she said. “No one else is going to do what you do like you do it. Believe when you are called into a space that you belong there.”

Simpson said some of the most important practices for aspiring entrepreneurs are to ask for what they want and to keep an open mind.

“Nobody’s going to know what you want until you vocalize it,” she said. “Also, don’t tell yourself no. Don’t give yourself reasons not to do anything, because if you fail, you fail. Try again, try something different.”

To view the full month-long lineup and remain up-to-date with the festival, visit and follow @ArtSancPhilly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Art Sanctuary’s gallery is at 628 S. 16th St.

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