One thing Philadelphia has in abundance is creative talent. Musicians, performers, visual artists, photographers and spoken word makers to name a few are some of the artistic niches you can find in the City of Brotherly Love. Tired of seeing unrecognized work with artists struggling with financial hurdles, appreciators in the form of WXPN, WRTI and REC Philly launched the Black Music City Program Grant. This year, the grant will award 46 residents nearly $100,000 for projects that honor Philly’s black musical history. Taking place this Juneteenth at World Cafe Live from 1-5 p.m., people are invited to join the artists as they kick off their work honoring the city’s history and their dedication to supporting the work of Philadelphia’s creatives.
“The idea came from Roger LeMay, who runs WXPN. He and I were talking one day during the pandemic and the conversation was just about artists having nowhere to go, they had no place to go. to practice their art. We had a conversation and we thought it wouldn’t be great to be able to put money in their hands and focus it on something that really makes sense for the city and for them, namely Philadelphia’s black music legacy,” said William (Bill) Johnson, CEO of WRTI.
Wanting to financially support local artists and explore the legacy of black music in Philadelphia, Johnson and LeMay found their two birds, one stone moment.
Opening up the grant to different artistic practices, Johnson said he was thrilled to see a variety of mediums honoring the city’s musical heritage. “What we realize is that this project is not a pandemic project. The idea is that we should look for ways to help artists practice their craft in a meaningful way. It transcends the pandemic, it’s what we should be doing all the time. We have so much history to celebrate and defend and we have so many incredible artists, that this is the kind of project that should have been in place before the pandemic, and certainly should be in place after the pandemic. says Johnson.
When asked if holding this event on Juneteenth was a coincidence, Johnson was quick to say that was absolutely not the case, “what better day of the year is Juneteenth for recognize the creative output of black Americans. This project really highlights what all of this creative energy brings to our society, not just to the black community, but to society as a whole. And Juneteenth becomes that focal point, where we can just to take stock of how music is woven into the fabric of this country,” says Johnson.
An intentional act to artistically embrace Blackness, this event is an immersive experience that hopes to educate residents about the importance of the intersectionality between art and history. Philadelphia is home to The Roots, Chubby Checker, Pattie Labelle, and countless other artists, if you’re a historian interested in culture and music, well, we take the time to appreciate it.
“We want to be blown away, to be blown away by the talent in this community of artists and the fact that you have so much in one space. I think that’s what helps to achieve this. I’ll highlight one artist or two artists or five artists or even ten artists, but when you have 46 artists in one space, all producing projects around that theme, we want that feeling to be wow. says Johnson.