Words By: Chantal Gainous
Legendary actor Harry Belafonte conjoined his social justice organization, Sankofa, and countless celebrities including activist Angela Davis, rapper Common, R&B star John Legend, activist and correspondent Van Jones, and many others to put on the inaugural Many Rivers to Cross Music Festival.
“This is the Woodstock for black activism,” Van Jones, top CNN contributor, said during his brief speech on stage before presenting Saturday’s main headliner, rapper Macklemore.
And that is not the only parallel that is being drawn about the two-day festival in the beautiful Chattahoochee Hills just outside of Atlanta. The event had a distinct nostalgia for the days of the Rock the Vote organization, which originally began its outreach voting campaigns in 1990 through Virgin Records.
The combination of music as a political force is no new thing for the African-American community. Arguably all forms of art from the community has been politicized in some way, even back into the days of slave songs used as ways to relay messages to one another. So, the Many Rivers Festival was only a natural next step to grab the attention of the current youth and the importance of the needed awareness of the current political state.
Three stages were erected simply named Stage One, Two and Three, an unusual choice for the music festival scene who usually enact clever, festive names that reiterate the vibe and feel of the event. But the emotion was not scarce, organically poured in by the multitude of artists that took the stages.
Every performance weaved a very clear message about the importance of being politically active and demanding your representatives.
“We cannot let this man take the office,” hip hop star Ty Dolla $ign expressed before launching into the infamous song F*ck Donald Trump, originally premiered by rapper Mac Miller.
Media and interested attendees could also venture to the Farm House, where deep conversation were held, supervised by the renowned curator Harry Belefonte. Speeches at the Farm included activist and actor Jesse Williams and actor Michael B. Jordan.
“Many Rivers was a very enriching and enlightening experience. I appreciated that the entire festival engulfed the importance of the three words: Black Lives Matter,” Cameron, a Georgia State communications graduate commented.