The city where America was made is gearing up for rapper Jay-Z's "Made In America" music festival, which officials estimate will attract 100,000 fans to Philadelphia over Labor Day weekend.
Construction of stages and tents began this week at the somewhat unusual venue, a tree-lined boulevard in the heart of downtown. It's the first show on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to require paid admission. Rock stalwarts Pearl Jam are co-headliners of the two-day event.
Officials said there should be no problem handling the crowd considering the city's long tradition of staging much larger concerts at the same location.
"Every year, we have detailed plans for public safety, street access, trash removal and we successfully accommodate 400,000 to 500,000 visitors on the 4th of July," Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement.
For those who can't make the festival on either Sept. 1 or 2, don't worry — filmmaker Ron Howard will be directing a movie about the show.
Overall, city officials expect 50,000 paying fans each day for the bill curated by Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter. Musicians include Skrillex, Drake, Afrojack, Chris Cornell, Run-DMC and hometown favorite Jill Scott.
Concerts will run from 2-11 p.m. on three stages, one of which will be near the Museum of Art steps made famous in the film "Rocky."
"Thirty amazing acts are coming together to perform at one of Philadelphia's most iconic sites," Geoff Gordon, regional president for concert promoter Live Nation, said in a statement Friday.
Gary and Kristin Camp of Wilmington, Del., were enticed by the lineup and bought a pair of two-day passes. Though they have some questions about logistics and transportation, Gary Camp said they're prepared for a couple of long days and are looking forward to the show — especially Pearl Jam.
"I think it's going to be an exciting event in a unique setting," Camp said.
Organizers say the blocks-long site will be enclosed by 8-foot-high double-fencing patrolled by security. Material woven into the chain-link barrier is designed to keep non-paying spectators from seeing the show.
It's a big change from previous parkway music events, which have been free. That includes annual Independence Day shows featuring performers like Sheryl Crow and The Roots, as well as the Live 8 concert for African poverty relief in 2005 and a Bruce Springsteen set in 2008.
As of Friday, two-day passes for "Made In America" cost $135 each, while a one-day ticket was $75. VIP passes, and travel packages with hotel rooms, ranged from $350 to nearly $2,200. Prices could go up closer to the concert date.
Mark Nevins, who lives in the nearby Fairmount neighborhood, is interested in seeing Pearl Jam. But he said sitting through an hourslong festival for one band seemed like a lot of time and effort.
"I'm hoping I can hear it from my house, or maybe head down toward the parkway and listen in from the outside," Nevins said.
It certainly wouldn't be surprising to see people trying to catch a few free tunes from outside the perimeter. But officials stress that fence-climbers will be prosecuted.
Also, Hollywood producers Howard and Brian Grazer ("A Beautiful Mind," ''The Da Vinci Code") have signed on to make a film about the festival. The pair's 2007 movie "American Gangster," about a notorious Harlem drug lord, inspired Jay-Z's album by the same name.
"Made In America" is sponsored by Budweiser and will be held rain or shine. It benefits United Way organizations in greater Philadelphia and southern New Jersey; Lancaster, Pa., and New York City. -- (AP)
Master braider, hair sculptor and filmmaker Yvette “Kinyozi” Smalls died Monday, April 16 after a brief struggle with cancer. Smalls was a pioneer in the movement of African-American women rejecting definitions of “bad” and “good” hair based on European standards, and reclaiming African traditions of beauty. The lifelong West Philadelphian was 52.
Smalls was the youngest of three daughters born to Samuel and Emma Smalls. “She was the apple of her daddy’s eye cause she was the baby,” recalled family friend Margaret Peterkin. The Carrol Park resident attended Heston Elementary, Shoemaker Jr. High school and graduated with honors from Overbrook High School magnet program. While studying at Harcum Junior College, Smalls began braiding, dressing and sculpting African-American women’s hair in the late 1970s, to put herself through school.
“Hair is my artistic medium and became my mission,” Smalls once told an interviewer. “My hairstyles are always on the edge of avant-garde with an acknowledgment of the roots of my culture. I love to ‘dress’ hair with all kinds of complex techniques as well as to explore creative and artistic aspects of natural hair. In my sanctuary we have a spiritual experience that’s difficult to explain; you come in looking one way and you leave another way.”
Smalls’ journey of self-discovery began as a quest to reverse the negative self-image she saw in the women she encountered. She went on to educate herself in intricate and varied hair braiding, wrapping, coiling and weaving traditions used in her own extended family across the American South, and across the African world, from Egypt to South Africa, Senegal to Kenya as an important form of creative expression representing both the individuality and social status or role of the wearer. In her own work, she drew on a wide range of styles and techniques, approaching each person’s hair as the ultimate wearable art. In 1998, she completed a documentary “Hair Stories,” broadcast on WYBE-TV and screened in festivals internationally. She has been a featured artist at ODUNDE and appeared at hundreds of schools and community events annually.
“I was so happy to see her do ‘Hair Stories,’” noted Philadelphia Poet Laureate Sonia Sanchez, who first taught Smalls at Temple University and became a client and friend. “She was able to tell her story about people she had come in contact with and how she help spread the whole idea of one’s identity and how to be proud of one’s self and how you looked and how you are on this earth. She did it in such a non-invasive fashion — she wasn’t ever rude with it; she was never aggressive with it. She would just present it in a very kind and gentle fashion that I saw people just look up and listen because she did do it in that fashion. It was who she was: a very kind and gentle woman. She moved on this earth with knowledge of how we, as women, quite often did not look at ourselves as beautiful women, and one of the reason why was because sometimes with (skin) color, and with the accompanying thing: the hair.”
The home, or sanctuary, where Smalls honed her craft was a central meeting place for many in the creative and performing arts. When the neo-soul music movement first took off in Philadelphia in the mid-’90s, Smalls was the go-to person for natural hair care and tended the coifs of dozens of young music notables including Erykah Badu, Ursula Rucker, Jill Scott and The Roots, whose drummer credits her for his signature hairstyle.
“(Smalls was the) first person who taught me about the bohemian lifestyle that I would soon capitalize off of and build a movement,” said Ahmir Khalib “QuestLove” Thompson via Facebook. “She taught me about oils, frankincense and myrrh incense, teaching me how to care for my hair (‘oiling and wha treatment?’), the one who encouraged my Afro when damn near EVERYONE fell out laughing at the sight of it in 1994 and made me stick to it when I felt insecure and just wanted to blend in with everyone and just plait or twist it up cause the laughs were unbearable ... you will be missed. Hope I did you proud. I listened to all those talks when you [thought] I wasn’t.”
Smalls’ work has been consistently featured in the press around the globe, and in March the Philadelphia the Folklore Project (PFP) screened her “Hair Stories” documentary and presented her with an award of appreciation honoring her years of vanguard work in folk arts and social change. The event marked the last public apperance Smalls would make.
“In life people pursue happiness and comfortabily, lavish and fine living,” said her only child, Amiri Russam Nichols, 28. “My mother did not need to pursue these things because her love and caring for others outweighed all her desires of materiel goods. She just enjoyed life. She was happy.”
In addition to her son, Smalls is survived by her older siblings: Harriet Smalls and Joyce Smalls-Jones; her former husband, Richard Nichols and her longtime companion Estan Wilsonus-El. A celebration of life memorial is scheduled for June. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/YvetteKinyoziSmalls.
Aaron D. Spears has a distinctive way of crafting analogies. Using descriptive metaphors, he has an ability to describe his life experiences in poetic verse. And with his extensive résumé of film and television roles, Spears’ acting career is grounded on a foundation of spoken-word.
He’s known as the suave Justin Barber on CBS’ “The Bold and The Beautiful,” which nominated him for the 2011 and 2012 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Daytime Drama.
Now, Spears has landed a role on BET’s new drama series “Being Mary Jane” starring Gabrielle Union. In the network’s first hour-long drama series, viewers follow a Black woman who’s a career-driven talk show host juggling family, social life and work life. Spears plays co-anchor, Mark Bradley.
“Cast and crew [were] very open, very down to earth. Gabrielle Union was a pleasant surprise,” Spears said. “She was not bourgeois. She was a regular girl, an average person at work. She was very warm and welcoming and mending herself to multiple options, not just stuck in one way doing or creating a character.”
Produced by husband and wife duo, Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil (“The Game,” “Jumping the Broom”), Spears described the couple’s working style as a joint effort of support.
“The director was cool,” he said. “Mara was very helpful in explaining any questions you may have. I like Salim in that he was open to suggestions, more of a collaborative effort as appose to directional effort.”
Spears admitted that while on set, he has learned a lot about himself as an actor. Balancing one television series takes hard work, but adding a second, Spears said will be a true endurance challenge.
“Some things that you ask for you’re not ready until you get that experience,” Spears said. “And that experience will either let it be known that yeah I am ready, or you will find out very quickly that you’re not.
“I compare this experience like double Dutch rope,” he added. “You’re getting your rhythm, you’re bouncing back and forth. You go to jump in the rope, but [if] you don’t catch that rhythm, that rope is going to sting your leg. That’s kind of how it is when you’re doing a drama because it’s long hours. A lot of shooting. A lot of waiting around. A lot of different takes. One, you have to maintain a level of testament, and two, making sure your interest don’t drop. When you’re off camera take that time to rest because at three AM you maybe doing a close up.”
Seen in films, “Babel,” “The Mannsfield 12” and “Blue Hill Avenue,” he has guest starred on television shows “NCIS,” “Castle,” “Boston Legal,” “Lincoln Heights,” “Bones” and “Criminal Minds.”
Aside from his full-time work in acting, Spears is passionate about his family. He credits his wife for providing support while he works.
“You got to have a strong person by your side. In terms of my wife and what she does, I always tell her like, ‘They couldn’t pay me to do your job. No. I’m good.’ You got to have a foundation. It’s a lot easier for me to go out and do my job because I have a foundation at the house.”
And the foundation that launched his acting career, stemmed from his experiences as a spoken-word poet.
“Spoken word was something very interesting,” Spears said. “Spoken word just kept following me.”
When he wrote a poem and got approval from family and friends, Spears said he realized he had a flair for poetry. After he moved from New York to California, he embarked on a journey — which yielded more opportunities for the actor.
“There was a poetry scene and that was my outlet of continuing to be in the spotlight. It kept me driven,” he said. “It kept me open. I kept writing and I kept performing at various clubs around the city. It kind of lent itself to me and I never was closed to it. Different energy [than acting], but still a creative vice to express. And ‘til this day, I still do spoken word.”
In 1997, Spears established his own company, HENNA Inc., which has introduced a new perspective of spoken-word poetry and a renaissance of film making in Hollywood.
Spears, a Washington, D.C., native, has additional talents as a former football player, artist and dabbles in singing, as well. Yet, he gave praise to Philadelphia for providing him his first experiences in the entertainment industry.
“I have a lot of ties to Philly,” Spears said. “Philly was one of the first places when I was jumping off the map trying to do my thing. I did a lot of modeling and auditioning in Philly. Philly always has that closeness to my heart. If it wasn’t for Philly, I don’t even know if I would have lasted in New York.”
As a previous Penn Relays participant, attendant of the annual Greek Picnic in Philadelphia and a fan of The Roots and Jill Scott, Spears jokingly said he wants to come back for a “fish cheese steak” sandwich. Just skip the beef because he’s no longer eating red meat.
For the second consecutive year, The Roots, Philadelphia’s Grammy-winning hip-hop heavyweights, will host the annual Fourth of July concert on Ben Franklin Parkway, with iconic drummer/DJ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson serving as musical director.
This year’s diverse lineup will feature Grammy-winning rapper/actress Queen Latifah, hit-maker Daryl Hall of the top-selling duo Hall & Oates, hip-hop artist/actor Common, and pop sensation Joe Jonas.
“We are excited to help put together such a great show! Philly’s a natural fit for the Fourth of July Concert,” says Questlove. “The Fourth of July on the Parkway should be what New Year’s Eve in Times Square is to New York.”
Once again, 6abc will broadcast the Independence Day festivities live, beginning at 10 a.m. with the “Celebration of Freedom Ceremony.” Taking place on the steps of Independence Hall, this “patriotic and inspiring” morning featuring music, speeches and excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, will pay tribute to the history of our great nation.
At 11 a.m., the station will begin live coverage of the “Philadelphia Independence Day Parade” as it travels through historic Philadelphia. With marching bands, floats and more than 5,000 participants, this year’s parade features a “Heroes Salute” honoring the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 – The United States Military, veterans, firefighters and police officers.
The evening’s festivities, airing live on 6abc from the Ben Franklin Parkway, begin at 7 p.m. with “A Special July 4th Edition of FYI Philly,” hosted by Karen Rogers and Adam Joseph. The highly anticipated “4th of July Jam” starring The Roots begins at 7:30.
The Roots, who regularly add their funky flavor as the “house band” for NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” threw an awesome party in 2011, hosting Earth, Wind & Fire, Estelle, Michael McDonald, Sarah Bareilles and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
This year’s musical celebration, which concludes with the traditional Grand Finale Fireworks, will also feature performances by surprise guest artists, and last summer Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Eddie Levert of the O’Jays stopped by to join the party.
“We know that what really makes it magical are the acts that we didn’t announce yet, so we have about three or four surprise artists that we’re not even going to advertise,” says “Questlove” Thompson. “So when you see them there, it’s going to be that much more magical.”
“Wawa Welcome America! will offer you and your family high-quality, free and most importantly, fun entertainment to celebrate America’s birthday with us,” says Mayor Michael Nutter. For complete information on Wawa Welcome America! visit www.welcomeamerica.com.
The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program announced Monday the launch of an eight-month-long mural project to honor the legacy, achievements and role of the Grammy Award-winning band, The Roots, in the pantheon of great American bands and continuum of accomplished Philadelphia musicians. The Roots Mural Project will tell the story of The Roots — especially Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter’s founding of the band — from the genesis to the present day.
Thompson and Trotter met at the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts and practiced their musical craft on South Street. Since their 1987 founding, they have become icons in the world of hip-hop musicians, lyricists, producers and showmen. Currently, The Roots serve as the house band for “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” on NBC and will release their 13th studio album, “Undun,” in four weeks.
“Even though I’m a musician, I kind of identify a bit more with the visual arts aspect of being an artist because that’s the world that I come from,” said Trotter. “I come from summer art camp at Fairmount Park and Saturday art classes at Fleischer Art Memorial in South Philly. I come from writing graffiti on all these walls, you know, climbing on all these roofs and all these buildings that you see in the South Street area. So, I’m definitely a Philadelphia artist, and that Philadelphia spirit is definitely in me. And, for Philly to be such an artistic city and to be recognized as such a beautiful city because of all these murals that have gone up over the years — to be recognized with one of these murals depicting The Roots is just, like, mind blowing.”
Trotter recalled his early artistic endeavors that landed him in community service time thus making his work with MAP mandatory. “Some of the people, who were in the ’80s writing their names right along with me, are now instructors in the Mural Arts Program,” explained Trotter to a bemused gathering. “I had to do these mural during my summers and Saturdays — it’s just an amazing blessing, and it’s so ironic for there to be a legal mural going up of The Roots. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that something like this would be taking place.”
Members of The Roots will take an active role throughout the development of the project. From participating in Roots 101 and painting with the public at Community Paint Days, the band will be present and involved throughout the eight months, including design review and the final dedication of the mural.
“It really is an honor to be a part of this announcement — a multifaceted, interactive tribute to a couple of our native sons and a Philly-based band,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “These guys really are heroes, and need to be recognized — not just because of their Grammy Awards, the millions of records sold or millions of folk who tune in to catch them on ‘Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,’ which are impressive accomplishments in themselves — but these guys are heroes because they took their childhood love of music and their education talent to become respected, talented and innovative professionals from Philly. They could have done anything, they could go anywhere, they could be anywhere, they stayed right here in Philadelphia and made our city their home-base, perfecting their craft and their talent and simultaneously changing hip-hop and the entire music industry.”
Jane Golden, executive director of the Mural Arts Program made a call for proposals to begin the process of selecting the artist or artist teams that will be responsible for engaging the community in all phases of the mural-making process, from design through execution. The proposal can be downloaded on the Mural Arts Program website here: http://muralarts.org/about/jobs-artist-opportunities. The deadline is Nov. 21.
Saturdays are anything but dull at the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz and Performing Arts.
With an array of jazz and music classes that go on throughout the day, the instructors and participants keep busy.
With the purpose of bringing music and the history of jazz to young children and community, the venue located at 738 South Broad St., hosts classes throughout the week and all day on Saturdays.
Members of the #274 Black musicians’ union founded the historic music organization in 1966. Since then the organization has developed and is now a place where many young children turn for music and culture.
Children in all age groups attend the Clef Club’s classes to learn how to play instruments like the saxophone, piano, drums, trumpet and a variety of string instruments.
Music educator and musician Lovett Hines, director of music education at the Clef Club, has a long history of teaching music.
Hines started the program years ago with just two students and is now proud of the growth and the way the music classes run.
He is also proud of the number of former students that have gone on to make successful music careers. Hines listed James “Kamal” Gray of The Roots as an example.
“One of the philosophies I tell the parents when the students come to us is I’m not really looking at them to get the same music instruction they get at school — I’m trying to really create little artists,” Hines said. “So we approach it from a different point.”
One of the guidelines within the music education program is to emphasize African-American, classical jazz music.
“For the first songs, instead of playing ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ we play something by Thelonious Monk or something like that,” he said. “Then we harp on different musical forms that relate to our music.”
The music education program at the Clef Club has outreach programs with schools in the city. One of the schools they work with is Kenny Gamble’s Universal Institute Charter School at 1415 Catharine St. The club now has an instrumental music program with the school, where students come into the Clef Club for lessons once a week.
Program participants range in age but the influx of youth has inspired parents to get involved. Hines has seen trends of mothers and fathers, bringing their children for lessons, and then signing up for lessons themselves.
The day consists of private lessons, ensemble practices and critique sessions where different ensembles discuss recent performances and ways to improve. Music is booming on each floor of the building on Saturdays, and children like Madon Seapoe, eight years old, take on the drums and use the Clef Club as a space to completely let loose.
Maurice Carter, father to Solomon Carter, 15, and Laura Carter, 11, is grateful for the organization’s music program. Carter finds that his children really enjoy the program and it helps them stay active while learning new instruments. Solomon plays the drums and Laura plays the violin.
“It really helped them to develop mentally,” Carter said. “They really enjoy the music.”
Along with school programs and music classes, the Clef Club has a partnership with Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Berklee offers the organization scholarships for Berklee’s summer program to a select few students from their senior program. They receive $5,000; and if they’re a senior and decide to go to Berklee for college they are eligible to receive $10,000, Hines said.
Don Gardner, managing director of the Clef Club, feels it’s important for the youth to engage in jazz music and its history.
“Frankly music is what it’s about, and the main thing here is they are taught by working musicians,” he said. “Our first goal is music — they have to learn it, know it and get the history of it.”
Every Philadelphian already knows that the best place to celebrate America’s birthday is right here, in America’s birthplace. The annual Wawa Welcome America! Festival comes back next month with 10 patriotic days of family-friendly and free activities through Independence Day. This week-long, only-in-Philadelphia party kicks off on June 24 and culminates July 4 with a parade through Historic Philadelphia and a mega concert with Grammy Award-winning artists, complete with fireworks, at the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This year’s musical director for the festival is Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, the headline drummer of Philly’s own neo-soul super group, The Roots.
Mayor Michael Nutter recently annouced this year’s Philly Fourth of July Jam will be literally “star”-spangled with some of the brightest and boldest talent on the national music scene descending on Philadelphia to offer an unparalleled entertainment experience.
“In Philadelphia, we save the best for last — an our festival grand finale is ‘The Largest Free Concert in America,’ the Philly 4th of July Jam,” said Nutter. “This year, we’ll welcome back Philadelphia’s own The Roots, to take the stage as the official house band for the Philly 4th of July Jam. They will be joined by an impressive array of some of the brightest and boldest musicians in the country, including Queen Latifah, Daryl Hall, Common, Joe Jonas and other special guests. The concert will end with a bang — literally — as fireworks illuminate the sky over one of the world’s architectural gems, the Philadelphia Museum of Art.”
Wawa Welcome America! — the nation’s largest, free 4th of July festival — runs from June 25 to July 4, 2012. For more information, go to welcomeamerica.com or call (215) 683-2200.
On Saturday, Oct. 27, 1 - 3 p.m., the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program hosts "The Roots Mural Project Celebration," the culminating event for Mural Arts Month. Roots front man Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter and drummer Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson will be present at the celebration being held at World Communications Charter School, 512 S. Broad Street.
The highlight of this event, free and open to the public, will be the unveiling of the initial design of "The Roots Mural Project." with ?uest and Black Thought painting some of the mural panels with member of the public in attendance. The festive afternoon will also feature giveaways, paintings, food and fun, as well as entertainment by Dice Raw of the Roots Crew, Philadelphia hip hop artist Chill Moody and DJ Statik of Illvibe Collective.
Joining Thompson and Trotter will be Jane Golden, Director, City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program; Mayor Michael Nutter; Ernel Martinez, lead artist, "The Roots Mural Project" and Tom Woodward, Bank of America, Pennsylvania president.
According to the organization, "The Roots Mural Project" was conceived by the Mural Arts Program to honor the legacy, achievements and role of the Grammy Award-winning band, The Roots, "in the pantheon of great American bands and continuum of accomplished Philadelphia musicians." "The Roots Mural Project tells the story of The Roots — especially Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson and Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter's founding of the band — from the genesis to the present day.
The artistic team, known as Amber Art & Design featuring Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, includes artists Ernel Martinez, Charles Barbin, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Willis "Nomo" Humphrey, and Keir Johnston. The mural is being painted on parachute cloth and has involved "hundreds of individuals" who participated in the mural-making process. The mural will be dedicated in 2013.
For information on "The Roots Mural Project Celebration" or the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, call (215) 685-0750 or visit www.muralarts.org.
Comedian Kevin Hart, a Philadelphia native and star of the zany reality show “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” will return to his hometown to host The Philly 4th of July Jam, the annual Independence Day celebration that takes place on the grounds of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
“The City of Philadelphia is excited to welcome Kevin Hart back to his hometown to host the Philly 4th of July Jam,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter. “Kevin’s comedic talent is sure to enhance the already thrilling concert lineup that we have planned. With The Roots, Jill Scott and Kevin Hart in the mix, Philadelphia’s homegrown talent will be center stage during this year’s show.”
Hart, who stole the show in “Think Like a Man,” the feature film inspired by Steve Harvey’s bestseller “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” recently made his debut as the host of “Saturday Night Live.” The feature film version of his comedy tour “Let Me Explain,” will open in theaters on July 3.
“We are so excited that Philadelphia’s Kevin Hart has come home to host this year’s Wawa Welcome America! Philly 4th of July Jam,” said Desiree Peterkin-Bell, City Representative and Executive Director of Welcome America, Inc. “His undeniable talent and connection to Philadelphia made him the perfect choice for us. With this addition and the range of artists we have secured, the 2013 Philly 4th of July Jam is on pace to be the best yet.”
With The Roots returning as the “house band,” this year’s highly anticipated concert will have a distinctly Philadelphia flavor, and feature a diverse roster of artists including Jill Scott, John Mayer, Demi Lovato, Ne-Yo, Grace Potter and J. Cole, along with Ben Taylor and other surprise guests. An additional performance by Marsha Ambrosius will take place on July 6 during the Taste of Philadelphia.
“The City of Philadelphia is proud to welcome an incredibly talented group of musicians to our city this Fourth of July,” said Mayor Nutter. “We believe that this year’s festival will go down in history as the best yet. We know that Philadelphia is the foremost place to celebrate our nation’s birthday. With the superb lineup of talent, we have an opportunity to prove it to the world.”
“We are excited to be back celebrating the Fourth of July in our hometown and we can’t wait to put on another great show for everyone on the Parkway this year,” said The Roots’ Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson. “These artists, who represent a variety of genres, are a perfect fit for the eclectic musical community that can be found in Philadelphia.”
Wawa Welcome America! is a multi-day festival that celebrates America’s birthday in America’s birthplace, Philadelphia. In 2013, Welcome America, Inc. is proud to celebrate 20 years as the producer of Philadelphia’s Fourth of July festival. For more information, please visit www.welcomeamerica.com.
In the spirit of giving back to his hometown, Philadelphia native Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter of the Grammy Award-winning hop-hop crew, The Roots, is hosting “Let’s Move It Philly,” a charity concert party taking place on Saturday, February 18. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The musical event, benefiting the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, will be held at Sigma Sound Stage, formerly the site of the historic Sigma Sound Studios, located at 212 N. 12th Street.
“Let’s Move It Philly!” uses hip-hop as “a catalyst to spread awareness about the growing obesity problem in underserved communities. The evening will feature special performances by Trotter and his Roots band mate, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, as well as DJ Rich Medina, DJ Diamond Kuts, Nikki Jean and Money Making Jam Boys.
Despite The Roots’ busy schedule as the “house band” on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” along with a multitude of recording and performing commitments, Trotter became involved in the GrassROOTS Community Foundation after a reunion with an old friend.
“I guess two years ago now, there was an event at Warmdaddy’s — like a ‘get to know Black Thought’ kind of thing,” Trotter said during a recent interview. “I went down there, and I spoke to a bunch of people, and there was a bunch of artists with submissions of their interpretations of a portrait of me. I went down there and just kind of sat on the stage and told my story in short.
“At that event, I made contact with a friend who, when she was going for her master’s at Temple, was my upstairs neighbor. Her name is Janice Johnson Dias. I hadn’t seen her in quite a few years — since we both lived in Philadelphia, but now we both own homes about 10 minutes away from each other in North Jersey. She told me she was a professor at John Jay (CUNY), was traveling the country on this health initiative, stressing fitness and addressing sexual and mental and physical health issues to young girls around the country, and she was getting grants to do her projects.
“We both have daughters who are about the same age — maybe a year apart — and she asked me to participate in a fundraiser that she was doing a year ago in Philly. It was at the Blockley. I did the show, and from that point on we’ve been working in concert in this organization. She asked me to come on board and help get this organization started, and she kind of took a sabbatical from her regular teaching gig and is focusing her energies on this GrassROOTS thing. It was an opportunity and one of those things where, ‘everything happens for a reason.’ I felt like she had come back into my life to use my influence for the forces of good.”
It is significant that “Let’s Move It Philly,” the first step in a 13-city initiative that will address obesity in the African-American community, will take place at Sigma Sound, where the lion’s share of the unforgettable R&B and soul classics known as “The Sound of Philadelphia” were created. Trotter described his return to the building as a “homecoming,” saying, “Sigma is the first major studio that The Roots worked in, and we recorded our first couple of albums there. It’s definitely a Philadelphia historic landmark, if not a national one.” With the legendary sound studio now converted into a performance venue, Trotter is excited about what will take place within its walls on February 18.
“You can expect to see some great Philadelphia DJs such as DJ Diamond Kuts and Questlove of The Roots and legendary DJ and poet Rich Medina,” he said. “You can expect to see artists that work in conjunction with the GrassROOTS organization like Nikki Jean and myself, and some of the MCs that you hear on Roots albums. So it will be very loose. It’s not as structured as going to a Roots concert. It’s not very traditional in that sense, but it’s like a meeting of the minds to celebrate having a successful first year as the GrassROOTS Community Foundation, and to get like-minded individuals on board with us, moving forward.”
Proceeds from the 2012 concert will benefit C.H.I.C.K.S. (Creating Healthy Informed Confident Knowledgeable Selves), a GrassROOTS after school program for girls at Harding Middle School, located in the Frankford section of the city. C.H.I.C.K.S. focuses on health, literacy, wellness and professional skills. To purchase tickets, visit www.grassrootscharityconcert.eventbrite.com.