Held at its traditional venue at Douglas Park located in the North Lawndale neighborhood, the 8th Annual West Side Music Festival was produced by the Westside Cultural Foundation (WCF), a non-profit organization which strives to bring art and culture to the West Side of Chicago.
On Saturday, this year’s headliners, R&B star Faith Evans, Da Brat, Crucial Conflict, Monifah and SandyRedd performed. Local independent artists Illi, Taylor Iman, Queen J-Lyn and Superstar opened for them in the afternoon.
WCF President and Chief Executive Officer Natashee Scott said headliners are selected by polling local residents through social media then narrowing down those choices as to which acts are available.
The other staple program of the Westside Cultural Foundation, in addition to hosting the West Music Festival, is the AileyCamp Chicago,a youth summer dance program facilitated by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This year, the free six-week program taught 100 youths, ages 11-14, dance, confidence and self-discipline, Scott said. Some of the participants of the camp performed on the main stage at the WSMF.
Corporate sponsors like BMO Harris Bank, Lagunitas Brewing Company, among others allows the event to be free to attend, according to Scott.
Volunteers from the office of Ald. Michael Scott, Jr. (D-24th Ward), husband of Natashee Scott, were on-hand at the WSMF giving away 2,000 bookbags with school supplies and hotdogs, manning inflatable bounce houses and cornhole games, and more. Ald. Scott said all left-over bookbags will be given away at block club parties and similar events.
Ald. Scott acknowledged the scene at Douglas Park during the festivities was vastly different than what occurred in recent weeks in North Lawndale. According to multiple reports, seven people were shot early on the morning of August 4 at Douglas Park.
“I think what we’re attempting to do is change the narrative that is created on the west side of Chicago… so my sole belief is if you activate the ward, the community, the park with positive programming, you have people out here doing this, having fun, enjoying themselves,” Scott said, while noting no violent incidents have occurred at the WSMF in its’ history.
Life-long North Lawndale resident Darius Williams was joined by his family for his fourth year attending WSMF. Williams’ family was present shortly after gates opened at 2 p.m. To be comfortable they built two large tents near stage left, an idea many other early arrivals had, along with bringing oversize umbrellas and folding chairs.
“I enjoy the people, the peace, the camaraderie. You get a good taste for the people in the neighborhood,” Williams said. “And it’s a good opportunity for people to enjoy things together. Good family-wholesome things together.”
Last year, Taylor Iman said she watched one of her friends perform at WSMF not knowing the following year she would be on the stage herself. Before performing a few songs from her soon to be released debut album “Motion Picture,” Iman described her music as “pop soul.”
When asked about what it’s like to perform at WSMF given the recent violence at Douglas Park, she said, “I think there’s a lot of violence that continues to go on. Not just on the West Side, but in Chicago in general. So, to be doing something that is shedding the positive light of the non-touristy areas of Chicago is something that I’ve always been a part of, and always wanted to do.”