Originally planned as a march and a rally, the daylong celebration of Black art will now take place online Saturday

Living through a pandemic, and in a time when a new round of Black Lives Matter protests have brought needed attention to the deep racial inequities in our country, particularly in terms of policing, Qamil Wright said it can sometimes be an hour-to-hour struggle trying to find a positive headspace to get through each day. 

In an effort to find some semblance of balance, the musician, activist and CEO of SoulDope Entertainment spearheaded the creation of Black Artists Solidarity Day, a celebration of Black music, art and culture that will take place on Saturday, July 11. 

Initially planned as a King-Lincoln march and a subsequent rally outside of the Vanderelli Room in Franklinton, the event will now take place digitally, owing to a recent statewide spike in COVID-19 cases. To participate, Wright is asking artists to record a video in which they sing, recite a poem, dance, tell jokes or otherwise engage. Videos, which should be kept under five minutes, can then be emailed with the subject line “BSD video” to souldopethings@gmail.com. The event will then take place on Facebook from 2-6 p.m this Saturday.

“In all Civil Rights movements, looking back at the Nina Simones and the Langston Hughes, Black artists have always been very present, and I think that’s important that remains the case here,” Wright said. “But I’m putting this together less as a protest and more as a healing space for Black artists, and more as a place where we can be together, because we have been hit doubly hard. With COVID, we still can’t have concerts and open mics, and basically our whole culture has been moved to the internet.”

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And then there is the ongoing protest movement, which can be a physically and emotionally draining exercise. Wright recounted one Downtown rally where she watched as police tear gassed a crowd that included young children. “I saw with my own eyes, a little girl, maybe 3 or 4 [years old] … and someone runs by me with this little girl who’s crying and rubbing her face [from the tear gas]. And this group of people sets her in the grass and pours milk in her eyes, and that will always stick with me. Growing up, I saw pictures of my grandparents during the Civil Rights movement, and here I am in 2020 seeing with my own eyes police tear gas a little Black girl.”

Black Artists Solidarity Day is meant to be a reprieve from these horrific images, though Wright noted that politically and socially charged submissions are clearly welcome. It’s a divide the singer has navigated within her own art, as well, moving between lusty R&B jams and more politically motivated fare such as new song “March On,” an indefatigable anthem that navigates a complex series of emotions (fear, anxiety, anger) before balling into a defiantly raised fist. “Silence isn’t an option!” Wright sings.

“In the last two weeks, I’ve released two songs, and one is sexy R&B and one is a protest song,” Wright said. “I feel a responsibility to do both: to provide that escapism for listeners, and to provide it for myself … but I’m also very in tune to protest music. There’s a need and space for both. It’s like how I might spend one day listening to [Aretha Franklin’s] Young, Gifted and Black and the next day put on an Usher record.”