18 Jul Musical Tradition Plays on in Changing North Richmond
Singer Reggie Rolls performs during the 12th Annual North Richmond Music Festival at Shields-Reid Park on July 15.
Story and photos by Denis Perez-Bravo
A soulful group of artists performed at the 12th annual North Richmond Music Festival organized by the North and Greater Richmond Blues Foundation at Shields-Reid Park on July 15.
Following introductions by event host DeJeana Burkes, musicians Silk-E, Reggie Rolls, Lady E, Alvon Johnson and Rhonda Benin took turns performing alongside the Best of the Bay 2023 Festival Band from noon until evening.
A gospel tribute was also held to honor the late Richmond community member Kirtiss Phaye Magee-White, who died this year.
Burkes, a blues singer who has lived in Richmond for more than 40 years, started the North and Greater Richmond Blues Foundation to honor the genre and its long history in the city, which she says can be traced back to the 1940s.
Shields-Reid Park, the longstanding venue for the music festival, was filled with food vendors, a jumper, family activities and local community organizations participating in the event.
Among these organizations, some like Urban Tilth, have consistently supported the event year after year.
Similarly, many attendees have made it a tradition to be present.
“This is like a homecoming,” said Cynthia Jordan, a committee member of the North Richmond Music Festival, who has been volunteering for the festival since its inception.
This year was no exception as Jordan enjoyed the event with food, dance, people and music.
Jordan said she’s seen the neighborhood change from a predominantly Black community that was deeply tied into the music scene in North Richmond to a Latino population that doesn’t historically attend the North and Greater Richmond Blues Foundation events, like the North Richmond Music Festival, in mass.
According to Richmond Confidential, Richmond’s population has undergone significant changes, with African Americans making up nearly half of the residents in 1980 but only 18% of the population in North Richmond by 2020.
“North Richmond is predominantly Hispanic, but this is a Black crowd,” Jordan said while proudly observing the people she personally invited. “Many of the (attendees) no longer live in Richmond but grew up in North Richmond.”
The music festival can be a reunion for some, like Jordan, and a time to revel in the longstanding tradition of the Black music community bringing blues and soul to North Richmond year after year.