The Lincoln Park Music Festival is one of the largest annual music festivals in the tri-state region. Nearly 60,000 people from around the globe come together over two weekends to experience multiple genres of music, including gospel, R&B, house, hip-hop, soulful alternative/mash-up, reggae, dancehall, soca and music of the Latinx/Hispanic Caribbean diaspora.
This year’s theme, “The Return To Newark,” is a call to action for “Newark’s diaspora” to “return home” for the best outdoor free music festival, notes Anthony Smith, executive director at The Lincoln Park Coast Cultural District, Inc. (LPCCD), a nonprofit organization actively engaged in economic development through Creative Placemaking to design an arts and cultural district in Newark’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.
“As a part of this creative placemaking process, the Lincoln Park Music Festival was created to change the trajectory of Black and Brown communities that exist on the (11-acre, four-block neighborhood) of downtown Newark that has been neglected,” says Smith. “We're using arts and culture as a vehicle to heal a community, to fix the broken ecosystem, and music is the main medium of the festival.”
The first slate of musical acts appeared at the Lincoln Park Music Festival the weekend of July 27-31, which featured a Hip Hop Culture Day and tribute to hip-hop and radio duo Awesome 2.
Weekend two of the Lincoln Park Music Festival kicks off Friday, Sept. 9, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., with The Soul of Lincoln Park (described as Newark’s “Black Hippie Fest”).
The Soul of Lincoln Park will feature musical performances by Soul In The Horn, DJ Nina Sol and DJ L3ni, Gail Campbell, DJ MD, Charisa “the ViolinDiva” Dowe Rouse, Justice Rountree and 360 Poetry Night, and DJ Jon Quick of 94.7 The Block (WXBK-FM).
A featured artist at The Soul of Lincoln Park, Marcy DePina, better known as DJ MD, points out that Lincoln Park (aka the Coast) is one of the oldest parks in the city of Newark. “It's one of the original commons, one of the original green spaces in the city. It's a special place with a lot of historical and cultural significance. Particularly for those of us who are Black who live in the city, it's even more special because the Coast was the area that was a hotbed of music back in the day for Black artists,” she says. “The Lincoln Park Music Festival is not only a natural progression of that energy, but it's also an incredible moment to show that the arts and culture scene is alive and well in the city. And it displays a lot of Newark-based talent or talent that was grown in Newark but has expanded out into the world,” she adds.
For DJ MD, it’s all about giving people good vibes. “I play music from Africa and the diaspora, showing how there is cultural continuity and connectivity through our music,” she says. “I'm looking forward to rocking it at The Soul of Lincoln Park. I'm going to play music from all different parts of Africa, from the Caribbean, the U.S. Mix it all together into one big giant Cachupa, which is Cape Verdean gumbo!” A nod to her cultural and musical roots from Cabo Verde, a group of islands off the west coast of Africa and the homeland of her family.
“The Lincoln Park Music Festival is rooted in traditions of the African American and Afro Caribbean diaspora,” says festival director Kim J. Ford. “Our culture has really permeated and influenced mostly everything in music.”
Touting the tagline “IN THE BEGINNING, WAS THE ROOT & THE ROOT IS THE SOUL!” this is the second year of The Soul of Lincoln Park at the musical festival. It promises to be a moving evening of music that is characterized by an expression of life experiences and an intensity of feeling, deep down in your soul, says Ford.
If you are an artist on the music scene in north New Jersey, then “Lincoln Park is the premiere stage that you want to rock,” says Gail Campbell. This will be the third time hitting the Lincoln Park stage for the singer. “I want people to come out and experience what we're going to give them. We're going to rock out like they've never seen before,” she adds. While she is known as an unboxed artist, genreless. Some critics have compared Campbell to the likes of such music greats as Tina Turner, Janis Joplin and Mahalia Jackson.
A Newark native, Campbell was raised in a family that loved music, with her father being a DJ, her mother, a singer and her uncle, a producer/singer/songwriter. She developed an appreciation for all musical genres from classical to R&B to Broadway show tunes “I woke up every morning to music and went to bed every night to music,” she says.
Campbell is an independent artist whose sophomore album, “Let My People Go,” dropped last month and it has been nominated by Heritage HipHop for group collaboration album of the year. It was produced by Stanley Ipkiss, who also produced “Two Bloody Waters,” her debut album. “We just have a dope chemistry, and he's my musical soulmate,” she says. “What I love about the industry now, with being an independent artist, is that you can really express yourself fully.”
The Soul of Lincoln Park is about reviving the soul of Newark, says Justice Rountree, curator of 360 Poetry Night, a showcase of lyricists that will perform at The Soul of Lincoln Park. “We're capturing the embodiment of our spirits and our beats, everything that makes us funky, makes us Black, makes us distinct, makes us influential in culture,” he says.
For Rountree, Newark has always been a cultural town. He is proud to carry on the legacy of some of his mentors. Local legends like graffiti artist Jerry Gant, arts educator Rodney Gilbert, and poet and author Amira Baraka. Rountree also drew inspiration from the jazz poet Gil Scott-Heron and musical lyricists The Last Poets, who were the forefathers of hip-hop. “Instead of playing with toys, I was playing with 45 records. I just remember as a child laying on my bed with my ear to the mattress, tapping my fingers and hearing that beat.”
A spoken word artist and social justice advocate, there is a multipurpose to his lyrical artistry. He points to musicians who used their art as a tool for social change such as James Brown, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder, whose Happy Birthday song was instrumental in getting Martin Luther King's birthday recognized as a federal holiday. “That's my obligation as an artist, to use what I have to improve or impact our conditions,” he says. Speaking about his work with local community and criminal justice organizations, “the soul hurts when there's killings or there's violence or there's trauma out here. We try to heal the soul.”
In addition to the annual Lincoln Park Music Festival, LPCCD’s main arts and culture programs include the Lincoln Park Music Speaks citywide humanities initiative, the Lincoln Park Jazzy Soul music series, the Lincoln Park Sustainable Living Community Podcast, and the public art initiative Lincoln Park Gallery Without Walls.
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