I spoke with Za’Nia and Ricki Monique, the co-hosts of Tangible Thoughts, a monthly open mic event featuring open mic performers, visual artists, and merchants. The open mic event is a part of a larger effort, called Tangible Collective. 

From their site: Tangible Collective is committed to building spaces devoted to Black Millennial thought and expression — valuing it, encouraging it, and centering it to make it tangible. The space has grown into a community pulse for Black Millennials and they support expression ranging from self-care to performative arts.

We talked about what it feels like to venture into the Twin Cities as a young Black woman, looking for artistic spaces that welcome you, and finding none. This repeated experience initiated the start of Tangible Thoughts. Ricki Monique, a teacher-turned-artist, and Za’Nia, an interdisciplinary artist, shared their thought process preceding the genesis of Tangible Thoughts.

“At that time, when we created Tangible, there wasn’t shit for us to do,” said Ricki Monique. “We were like, 20. We couldn’t go to the bars, and some of the art events that we went to didn’t feel safe or welcoming for Black women. They didn’t center Black culture. Everyone at those events acted white and Minnesotan.”

“Some of the main events that I would go to are TruArtSpeaks and their open mics, but at the time, they were aiming to curate poets and spoken word artists. Black Table Arts also had their open mics, and there was a late-night series at Pillsbury, but those happened once every few months. So there were all these niche spaces that popped up, but they weren’t consistent,” said Za’Nia. “And they didn’t feel welcoming to our age group, and how we wanted to show up and be validated. We knew there was a space for us to be. We both knew how much we loved creative spaces. And for us, we knew we wanted these spaces for ourselves, so on a whim, we decided we were going to start it up.”

And four years later, Tangible Thoughts has grown to become a community staple. They’ve partnered with the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis Climate Action, and Public Functionary. They’ve featured and seen the growth of performing and visual artists including EssJay TheAfrocentricRatchet (IG: theafrocentricratchet), Maiya Lea Hartman (IG: maiyaleaart), and Yoni Light (IG: yoni.light). And they’ve witnessed and experienced their own personal growth, as organizers, hosts, and artists.  

From their site: We have welcomed between 100 and 200 attendees at every gathering. In this space, we welcome the crowd and performers to contribute by being present, supporting one another through affirmation and oral validation, and engage in sustainable community economics through recycling community dollars into community businesses. Tangible Thoughts is the physical manifestation of our mission to create a supportive sustainable ecosystem for artistic development and community engagement.

Tangible Thoughts has seen an incredible trajectory, and has a brilliant future in the Twin Cities area, with their hopes to expand and create even more space and opportunity for Black millennial thought and expression. Yet, even amidst their wildly successful efforts, they still want community members to remember one important thing.

“We’re young Black femmes, and we’re figuring it out.”

It’s critical to note that Tangible Thoughts is a space that honors exploration. Tangible Thoughts honors the not knowing, the uncertainties of being a twenty-something, the wondering what direction to go in next, and the feeling of wanting to quit your job and use your entire mind to create. And it honors these sentiments chiefly for young Black folx, who deserve ample space to feel it out. To try, and fail, and try again. To say ‘I know’ when they know, and ‘I don’t know’ when they don’t. To figure it out.

On Saturday, October 16th, the Tangible Collective will host a Tangible Thoughts open mic in partnership with Public Functionary. The event will take place at the Northrup King Building (1500 Jackson St NE), from 7:30 to 10:00pm. 

Tangible Thoughts occurs monthly at various locations throughout the Minneapolis-St.Paul area. To learn more about the events, the hosts, and how to support them, navigate to tangiblecollective.org. They can also be found on Instagram, @tangiblecollectivemn, and on Facebook at facebook.com/tangiblecollectivemn

Artist at Tangible Thoughts


Guests at Tangible Thoughts


Za'Nia and Ricki Monique