Inaugural Englewood Music Fest is Saturday. Organizers’ goal is to celebrate the community and help change the narrative.

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Chicago Ald. Stephanie Coleman has had the idea for a music festival in Englewood for seven years.

After going to other community festivals such as the Hyde Park Summer Fest and the Westside Music Festival, Coleman, who described herself as “born (and) bred Englewood,” thought why not do something similar in her neighborhood.

“I said, ‘Wow, I’m going to all these other communities, and my community should experience this type of unity, this type of fun,’” said Coleman, who represents the 16th Ward.

Her idea will become a reality Saturday with the inaugural Englewood Music Fest, which Coleman’s office is sponsoring and helping organize along with community organizations such as the Englewood Arts Collective (EAC). The event, which is free to the public, will run from noon to 7 p.m. at 63rd and Halsted streets, according to a listing on Eventbrite.

Coleman said the event is being funded through a mix of grants and corporate sponsorships.

She said 1,500 people have RSVP’d and she hopes actual attendance will be at least double that number. Attendees will be required to show proof of COVID vaccination or take a rapid test before entrance.

“It is going to be a day of music, of family, of peace, of pride,” she said. “(We are) celebrating Englewood excellence — its past, its present, and its future.”

Janell Nelson, a member of the EAC, expressed a similar sentiment.

“We want residents to come out of their homes, to put on their masks, and have a good time, but then take away with that a memory that makes them feel good about where they live, and ... makes them feel respected and loved because they were a part of it,” Nelson said.

EAC is a group that uses art to portray a fuller picture of Englewood, one that goes beyond the general perception of the area as a violent place, according to Nelson.

The festival is also a way to show people outside the community how Englewood is a dynamic neighborhood, Coleman said.

“Where I’m starting is changing that narrative, and seeking out opportunities and resources,” Coleman said.

“Englewood is not all negativity,” Nelson said.

The festival will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Englewood Square commercial center, where Coleman said there has never been a shooting, as well as academic excellence at Kennedy-King College, which Coleman said will soon be honored by the City Council.

Performers will include Syleena Johnson, an Illinois native and Grammy nominated R&B singer; Q Parker from the music group 112; the West Side group Crucial Conflict, and local acts from both Englewood and the broader South Side, Coleman said.

“We are covering from gospel to jazz to R&B to hip-hop, whatever floats your boat in music, we’re going to have it,” Coleman said.

The range of music is meant to make sure that there is something for everyone.

“Englewood is family,” Nelson said. “I can confidently say that one of the vibes of Englewood is that, if you have an event, it’s not just going to be one segmented group that’s going to show up; it’s going to be the family ... so we really wanted to honor that and make space for that.”

Music is not the only festival attraction.

There will be a resource center from noon to 2 p.m. to connect residents with community organizations and job opportunities, Coleman said.

There will be an esports tournament, which will provide video game competition and, Coleman hopes, perhaps spark an interest in technology and engineering.

“There’s career pathways (in esports),” Coleman said. “We’re celebrating, again, the future, so esports is the future.”

EAC, which is in the process of awarding 10 small grants to South Side artists, will use art at the festival to give people a chance to express pride in their community and promote community engagement, Nelson said.

There will be a station where people can design and print posters, a beat-making class for people to make their own sound, a nonalcoholic “sip-n-paint” for people to paint while enjoying a kid-friendly beverage and a clay-making station, according to Nelson.

“It’s really using art as a conduit for collaborative community engagement,” Nelson said. “It’s using art as a tool to just raise the vibrations of a community and people, and tap into the love that we already know is present.”

Coleman hopes the festival will empower community members and be the start of an Englewood tradition.

“The biggest crime that has been committed to our community has been disinvestment,” Coleman said. “We are worthy, we are excellent, and I don’t care what anyone says. ... We deserve every opportunity, every resource, every festival ... every job fair as (much as) any other community that’s thriving in the city of Chicago. And we have to start with us first.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting