Celebration of music, dance and community at the heart of Roxbury Rocks Music Festival
New Edition, Donna Summer, Ed O.G., Roy Haynes, Guru, Tony Williams, Sonny Stitt, Irving Ashby, Patrice O’Neal, and Elma Lewis. What do they all have in common? They’re all noted musicians, singers, comedians, jazz performers, and cultural icons, who were all residents of Roxbury at one point in their lives.
Roxbury, which serves as the heart of black culture in Boston, is a neighborhood long-known for its rich cultural history, and will be feted this Saturday, July 19, with the first annual Roxbury Rocks Music Festival presented by Roxbury Community College.
The festival will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. on the campus of RCC, and is free and open to the public. It will include food trucks, musical and dance performances by local artists, free ice cream and face painting for the family, and an Awards Ceremony.
The idea for “Roxbury Rocks” came about “to celebrate the summer season and say thank you to the community for their support during the past year” according to Roxbury Community College President Valerie Roberson (who responded to questions via email).
Roberson, who has been a community college administrator for 28 years, and who assumed the role of President in July 2013 amidst much turmoil at the institution, hopes that the music festival will “strengthen our connections to prospective and current students as well as the larger community.”
She goes on to say, “we also want to highlight our role as a singular educational resource committed to serving the needs of Roxbury, surrounding communities and other diverse populations in the Commonwealth.”
The musical servings for Saturday include a menu of jazz, R&B, gospel and reggae from several Boston-based musicians and artists, performing from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The afternoon kicks off with the highly regarded and well-known jazz group, The Kordalewski Trio featuring pianist/arranger John Kordalewski.
For fans of R&B and gospel music, there’s acoustic soul singer Alexi Paraschos, and R&B/gospel singer Ron Murphy. The afternoon entertainment heats up with the powerful and soulful reggae band, King-i, along with local dance company, OrigiNation, known for their dynamic and highly energetic performances incorporating African dance and rhythms, as well as ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop.
Another highlight of the day is RCC’s First Annual You Rock Awards Ceremony held inside the Media Arts Center on the college campus from 4 to 6 p.m. The College will recognize four community leaders who have championed RCC and the Roxbury community over the years.
The honorees include: Sonia L. Alleyne, MPA, vice president & New England regional manager of community reinvestment and the Santander Bank Foundation; Judge Leslie Harris, an associate justice of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court; Derek Lumpkins, executive director of Discover Roxbury; and Beverly Morgan Welch, executive director of the Museum of African American History.
Keeping the day running smoothly will be Bonnie Johnson, producer and host of the WICN 90.5 FM radio program Colors of Jazz.
With a host of activities spanning the afternoon, “students and the wider community can expect an ongoing series of academic, civic and cultural events here on the RCC campus” in the coming year, says Roberson.
When asked what she was most looking forward to on Saturday, Roberson said “a warm summer day celebrating our musical heritage, enjoying local talent, recognizing our supporters and connecting with our students, staff, faculty and the larger community.”