By Lena Foster
The 2022 Civilized Fest: Juneteenth Edition created an informative and expressive environment for the Dallas community to come together and not only celebrate Juneteenth but gather the resources they needed.
With sponsors Heal America, ShySpeaks and Company, Big Thought and Urban Specialists, this event, hosted at Gilley’s Dallas, combined discussions surrounding societal matters, a showcase of resource clinics, and indoor and outdoor entertainment into one.
Big Thought has been working as a non-profit for youth education for approximately 35 years and not only helped fund the event but also provided volunteers to assist with operation. They’ve worked with young men of color dealing with their college needs.
“We’re just trying to do as much as we can to help young people in the Dallas area realize their true potential, understand what they want to do and then put them in a position to make that happen,” Sean Walker, manager of the fellowship initiative at Big Thought, said.
Along with sponsoring, one of the children involved in Big Thought participated in the youth panel moderated by Urban Specialists’ Director of Engagement Lamontria Edwards, where several students spoke on issues surrounding the youth, race, civic duty and education.
“We’re giving them (the youth) the platform to have a voice to be able to go forth and do this work, even if it’s not here with us, they’ll leave with more information on how to be a better citizen for America,” Edwards said.
Along with some of the accessible resource clinics inside the event, attendees had the opportunity to experience a block party hosted by 97.9 The Beat DW’s SpaceBoyfresh consisting of food trucks, vendors, and music. The outside celebration provided several food trucks that served a variety of food options including Calios Tacos, Sassy’s Vegetarian Soul Food, Smith’s Spot BBQ and Rita’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard.
Vendors such as Likorish Boutique and Saint Louis Snack Shack sold items ranging from accessories to home-made goods and snacks.
People got the chance to experience some local cuisines while jamming to the songs are the energy that was being given even in the Texas heat. SpaceBoyfresh’s energetic spirit made the atmosphere interactive and comfortable for everyone, even if they didn’t know each other, to enjoy each other with popular line dances and songs.
“As much as I celebrate, I always try to think about those that came before us and what they had to endure for us to even be able to have these types of celebrations,” Toyin Ajayi, an attendee, said.
The event possessed what was needed for adults and children to get involved. Along with a mobile gaming trailer outside during the block party, children enjoyed the excitement of the Triple D Dance Showdown hosted by Lejin and Soulbot, which included multiple one on one dance-offs and performances from groups such as Rock Solid and Boogieland. Attendees, especially the kids, danced with each act and judged the one-on-one battles.
Hosts Princess Pope and Chadd Black took audience members through an array of musical and dance artists from sun up to sun down. Throughout the entire event, various performers showcased different genres of music and entertainment. Artists AX2 & Dejah, Kida The Great and Adrion Butler kickstarted the show with a mixture of younger generational hip hop, dancing and gospel rap.
Not only did both acts bring more people out to the main stage area, but they displayed enough energy to get everyone engaged.
Butler is a Midland native that uses his experience to write music for others that have been through similar experiences. According to Butler, representation is an essential part of celebratory holidays such as Juneteenth and Black Music Month, and he’s teaching his two kids how there can be representation in a wide range of areas. Along with music, Butler developed a passion for graphic design and clothes and is in the process of creating his own shoes.
“I’m saying your voice matters; seeing you matters; hearing music from you matters; hearing stories from you matters,” Butler said.
V.I.P attendees also got the opportunity to experience a meet and speak with the artists of the show and an exclusive Greek stroll-off.
As the amount of people increased at the event and more conversations as well as performances were held, the vibrancy in the venue enhanced.
A second discussion form with adults focused on conversing about healing and redemptive activism was moderated by President and CEO of Urban Specialists Antong Lucky. Various community leaders from different foundations and organizations contributed to the conversation based on their experience and beliefs.
Other artists such as Brik Liam, ShySpeaks and The Walls Group brought a mixture of vibes with each performance, leaving the audience wanting more.
Born in Houston, The Walls Group, including siblings Rhea, Ahjah, Darrel and Alic “Paco” Walls, are known for their contemporary gospel music. From perfecting their craft with their mom to acquiring recognition from an unintentional youtube posting of them singing, The Walls Group brought the personality and energy needed to get everyone moving and singing along with them at the event.
“This is literally an impact event, and we are impact people,” Alic “Paco” Walls said. “I just think that it’s a privilege and an honor that God thought we were fit for this.”
With a mixture of cheerful praise and meaningful worship, the group embodied some of the true aspects of Juneteenth and Black Music Month surrounding being grateful for the contributions our ancestors made to make events and music like this happen.
“It’s great to celebrate the fact that we’ve had generations upon generations of good music that has really impacted not only our culture but the world,” Darrel Walls said.
Dallas native ShySpeaks not only helped organize the event, but performed her hip hop styling of music that defined her as a genuine lyricist. She’s known for her spoken word talents that she acquired from writing therapeutically and speaking, and with her business and administration knowledge, she was able to assist with coordination of the show.
According to ShySpeaks, her true passions center around arts, entertainment and business, and she encourages others to look into the business matters as well as the creative.
She influenced the crowd with her musical diversity and set the bar high when it came to performing at a captivating level that had people energetic and accepting to the messages she gave off in her music.
“It’s all about uplifting, empowering and making people realize that they can be civic minded, culturally relevant and still soar high,” Shy Speaks said. “I want to see us as a culture move towards a place where civics and culture actually collide.
The night ended with one of the most engaging performances by D Smoke, an Inglewood native rapper with a classical, jazz and gospel music background. With his bilingual abilities and his accomplishment of winning season one of the Netflix series Rhythm & Flow, he displayed his distinctive form of sound with each song he performed and wasn’t afraid to show the passion and intention behind his words.
In the crowd there were groups dancing and not just singing the lyrics but living them. There were moments where the audience interaction, such as one woman showcasing her musical talent at the end of his song and his incorporation of his sister’s voice in another song, made the vibes even better and more immersive.
The performance not only marked an end to the event but a confirmation to the event’s overall success.
“I just think anytime we set aside time to celebrate blackness, we’re moving in the right direction,” D Smoke said.