A report by Shayna Calandro for The BoomBox.
Sankofa, a social justice organization founded by the legendary actor, entertainer, humanitarian and activist Harry Belafonte, is hosting a star studded music festival Many Rivers To Cross. The festival will be held in Atlanta, Georgia, on Oct. 1-2, and will not only feature music performances but be deeply rooted in social activism and debate.
The festival will feature appearances by John Legend, Common, Chris Rock, Dave Matthews, Carlos Santana, Macklemore, T.I., Jesse Williams, Aloe Blacc, Jussie Smollett, Estelle, Danny Glover, and many others.
The format of the festival is a bit different than most. It will feature members of community organizations having debates and dialogues with festival goers during the daytime, to help show what communities are dealing with and how people can get involved. The performers will also work with activists, thought leaders and community organizers to work toward solutions through issues like voting rights, mass incarceration and community/police relations.
At nighttime, the artists will hit the stage, and are encouraged to perform “material relevant to the cause of justice, or the miscarriage of justice,” as Belafonte described. Money from the event will be distributed to organizations involved. BET has recently got on board to exclusively tell the story behind the festival.
Belafonte said the idea for the concert was developed within the past few years, when the tragedies of unarmed black men like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Freddie Gray prompted protests around the country. While he was visiting these cities to meet with activists and organizers, he noticed several issues— a lack of financial support and communication. He noted that multiple groups were operating without knowledge of what each other was doing.
“We figured it would be a good start if we could get a group of artists together who are deeply sensitive to the issue of what was going on in terms of blacks and criminal justice, and to make ourselves available to the organizations as much as necessary,” Belafonte stated in a conference call with organizers.
The model was inspired by the civil rights movement, when various organizations like SNCC, CORE and other groups collaborated for the March on Washington or the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
Sankofa has also worked with Blackout for Human Rights on the Justice For Flint concert, which was dedicated to raising resources and awareness for people impacted by the Flint water crisis, and the music video for Usher’s song, “Chains.”
You can find more information about the festival and tickets, here.