Music lovers unite! WBEZ, Suburban Unity Alliance, and Harmonica Dunn have joined forces to sponsor the first annual food aid festival for Oak Park Community Fridge, Beyond Hunger, A House in Austin, Austin Coming Together, Best of Proviso Township and Westchester Food Pantry. The event is scheduled to take place on July 22 and 23, and features two locations and multiple musical performances.
“As we continue to grow and evolve our business, tackling food insecurity has become the core of our mission,” said Anthony Clark, founder and director of Suburban Unity Alliance. “When families connect with us, it is generally related to food. All equity issues are interconnected and we want this event to support organizations that are doing a great job in our communities.”
Clarke and Donny Biggins, founder and talent buyer at Harmonica Dunn, hope to maximize concert attendance by keeping the event accessible both geographically and financially. As such, they perform at two locations, one in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood and one in Oak Park. Affordable everyday tickets for $25.
Clark and Biggins, both OPRF alumni have shared music and have worked to ensure that the Food Aid Festival will highlight artists from the communities the event impacts most. The first day of the festival will bring ticket holders to the Kehrein Center for the Arts, 5628 W. Washington Blvd in Austin, where The O’My’s with Wyatt Waddell and Kara Jackson are scheduled to take the stage.
“Friday’s event will have a more traditional structure,” said Bigins, who is also the owner of Golden Dagger in Chicago and former head of music for FitzGerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn. “Kara Jackson is an artist from the Oak Park community, and it’s a real honor to be a part of the show.”
Jackson, an OPRF graduate, activist, author, singer, and songwriter, has served as the 3rd National Youth Poet from 2019-2020. Their performance on Friday Show at Food Aid Festival comes in advance of their debut album drop this fall. In 2020, Chicago Reader’s Gossip Wolf said that “the amazing melodies of acoustic guitar and the delicate vocals go straight to the gut.” Notable Chicago-based artists, The O’My’s and Wyatt Wydell will conclude the evening with meaningful R&B sounds and tunes.
Day Two Ticket holders will be welcomed to School Rock Oak Park, 219 Lake Street, Oak Park, for an afternoon and evening of live music. Artists including Mary Lane, FURY, Mikey Everything, Since96ix, Yomí, Trichomes and The School of Rock show team will perform between 3pm and 10pm on Saturday, July 23. Taylor Tacos will be at School of Rock on Saturday to present their “Street Tucos for the Soul.”
“I said yes right away, and I’m excited to be partnering with Kehrin Center for the Arts,” said Amy Renzulli, owner of Rock Oak Park School. “When it comes to using music, art, and food to help the community, I will always raise my hand.”
The eighty-six-year-old frontrunner Mary Lynn is a member of the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame, and her first solo album in two decades, Travelin’ Woman, released in 2019 helped her gain recognition as “Artist of the Year” by Living magazine. Blues. Lynn received the prestigious Koko Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Jus Blues Music Foundation last year. Expect her soulful and timeless voice to connect with the audience.
“We are excited and really honored to be hosting legendary blues singer Mary Lynn,” said Renzulli. “We owe our rock ‘n’ roll roots to pioneering musicians like her and her fellow blues musicians. We look forward to seeing the wonderful array of music and giving back to the community at a time when resources are dwindling.”
Saturday’s party also has a very local flair with performances by hip-hop artist, Oak Park activist and LGBTQ activist, rapper Mickey Everth and Austin rapper, FURY. Sure to be a magnet, FURY, standing on Your Last True Understanding will bring its socially conscious themes to the stage; An artist and activist, she focuses on revitalizing Chicago’s West Side – her passion for community aligns well with Food Aid’s mission.
Clark created the Suburban Unity Alliance in 2016 and over the years tackling food insecurity has evolved into a core issue that the equity-focused organization aims to address. Both he and Begins hope food aid will become an important source of funding for interconnected community organizations dedicated to hunger relief efforts this year and for years to come.