Aaron Duke | Staff Writer
Sept. 8, 2022
The Love and Living Music Festival was held in the Allegheny Commons Park in the North Side on Saturday from 12-6 p.m. The festival was held in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Thomas Merton Center’s establishment. A goal of $50,000 was set to be raised by this event to go towards the mission of the Thomas Merton Center: advocating for inclusivity and peace through justice.
Founded in 1972, the Thomas Merton Center aims to fight against racism and racial injustice. As time passed, the Thomas Merton Center started to focus on poverty and advocating for equal access to education. Through partnering with other non-profit organizations, the centers have pledged to carry this message of civil equality.
Organizer and event chair, Symone Saul, explained “how much power” individuals can have when “trying to make a change in the world around them.” Saul said she came to this realization after setting up and executing the idea for the music festival.
“There are so many moving parts working together to make this event happen, and it has made for a great deal of community involvement and unity,” Saul said.
Live performances included Smokestack Lightning, Sunnileilari and Ananga Martin, May Day Marching Band, Guaracha, Open Up, 1Hood’s Treble NLS and DJ QRX and KYNA James (Issue). Aside from this diverse setlist, attendees were able to perform in an open-mic session period.
Social injustice and racial issues were highlighted in many of the songs performed. People who performed offered many different genres and perspectives; the main idea was that everyone was speaking from a place of feelings. Each person offered songs that would support the theme of the African American experience.
Included in these performances was also the ability for patrons to take part in an inclusive dance workshop with the group Open Up. Attendees followed the interactive dance session to the best of their ability, without the worry of being judged by others. A sense of unity was always present; people were interacting with one another while younger audiences made friends.
The community was fully involved in this event. Some people enjoyed the live music, while others explored many of the stands that were available. Although the day sported rain, the spirits were high, and people enjoyed their time.
Many vendors came to support this monumental moment and worked toward strengthening the community in their own way. From voting sign-ups to activist groups, the Love and Living Music Festival brought community involvement through the ability to discover new opportunities. All the stands presented an opportunity to include oneself in the community.
A representative from an artist and activist group, 1Hood, explained that he came to the festival because of the “ability to network with people in the community.” The group’s respect for the work of the Thomas Merton Center was also a major factor in the group’s presence at the event.
“There is a sense of comradery and a lot of ability to work with people. While being there 1Hood got the chance to address certain social justice issues while supporting the work and legacy of those before them,” performer MAN-E said.
The voting stand at the event helped spread the ability to make a difference and sign up to vote. The individuals working at the stand explained how they were excited to help people sign up to vote and through the community, they can make a difference in promoting social justice.
Support for inclusivity was not only for different ethnic groups and races but also for trans-youth. Much like the other vendors, this worker brought her specialty to this community event, giving exposure to these organizations which can help people.
The consensus brought by the vendors was that the community was a large driving force to come together for music and awareness. Connecting with others made this event possible; a festival such as this not only allows for a message to be conveyed, but for people to relax and have fun.