EAST ORANGE, NJ — The city of East Orange’s second Music Arts and Culture Fest took place in City Hall Plaza on Saturday, June 4, across from the train station, which served as both a temporary art gallery and a shelter from the sporadic rainfall that threatened to cut the event short.
“When I was getting off the train, I liked what I saw down there,” said local rapper Leek on Saturday, June 4. “I actually saw the girl spray-painting. … I got off the train and saw all these people out here and it was a beautiful thing. I appreciate the art. I love the art up there and I think people should come out here and check it out.”
Leek’s friend, Said, explained he was “definitely into stuff like this.” He said he’s “all for any place with cool vibes, where my people are in peace.”
“Anyplace with people where you have vendors trying to sell their own stuff is cool,” continued Said on Saturday, June 4. “It’s cool to come out and see you can have a good time without all that violence and bull. I’m for it. I’m all for it.”
The weather did threaten to rain MACfest out, but a little bad weather didn’t stop the show, which featured a performance by rhythm and blues recording artist Vivian Green singing music produced by former rapper Kwame, from going on. The festival DJ was rapper and former Flipmode Squad female emcee Rah Digga and there were featured performances by: rhythm and blues songstress Sunshine Anderson; Aaron Camper; house music sensation Roxanna Lynn; 8-year-old guitar prodigy Marel Hildago; the Caribbean sounds of the Ekklipse Steel Band; the Above Ground Project; Chicc the Comedian; and Jacqueline Constance, along with music provided by DJ Jon Quick, DJ Omar Abdallah, DJ Freeez and others.
According to Mayor Lester Taylor, this year’s MACfest was better than last year’s and “next year it’s going to be better than this year.” But, Taylor and Recreation Department and Cultural Affairs Director Osner Charles said the best is still yet to come in East Orange on Monday, July 4, when the city celebrates Independence Day with a special concert by local hip-hop legends Naughty By Nature at Paul Robeson Stadium on Park Avenue.
“The Fourth of July, watch out,” said Taylor on Saturday, June 4. “We’re having Naughty By Nature celebrating their 25th anniversary at Robeson field. We’re doing big things here in the city of East Orange.”
On Saturday, June 4, at 4:30 p.m., a special award was presented to East Orange up-and-coming fashion star Kyemah McEntyre, who “broke the Internet” with her self-designed prom dress in spring 2015. Taylor said honoring McEntyre was only right since the MACfest was about showcasing local talent.
“I want to thank Valerie Jackson, our director of Planning and Redevelopment; Connie Jackson, our public information officer; and Osner Charles, for working together to bring this collaborative event, which is highlighting not just entertainment but attractions to transit,” said Taylor. “And that’s what we’re talking about from Day One, which is setting the standard for urban excellence, making East Orange a destination city, building around our transit system. So I’m happy to have thousands of people out here today — families from 8 to 80 having a good time in a very safe, family-oriented environment with vendors, music, etc. It’s been phenomenal.”
Taylor said, “Attendees were encouraged to bring lawn chairs” so they could sit back, relax and enjoy the MACfest. He said the event was all part of his vision to make East Orange into a “destination city,” where people want to come to spend their time and money.
“We’re all about customer service here,” said Taylor, with a laugh. “It’s so fitting, because right across the street from the train station, we have the Cicely Tyson School of the Performing Arts and we’re looking to embrace and enhance the arts in our community, both in our educational system, but also as a society. Our redevelopment plans have just been revamped and our lower Main Street area has redesignated as an arts and entertainment district, so we’re looking to embrace and attract the arts to our community, and no better place than right across the street from a train station, with attractive and affordable housing and rental space for lofts for artist space, for studios, etc.”
Taylor said the success of the MACfest was proof that “East Orange is where it’s at.” He said, two weeks ago, a prominent statewide media outlet listed MACfest as No. 5 on the Top 15 fun free things to do in the state of New Jersey, “so we’re good.”
“I was a huge fan of all of the artists and entertainers that have been here today; I applaud not just the headlining acts, but all the other artists that were here,” Taylor said. “We had artists doing work on cellophane paper over here; we had artists all around and it’s about embracing creativity and the culture within our community. And to see all these families and children in East Orange, we are setting that standard for urban excellence, day in and day out in an orderly, businesslike, safe fashion and I just thank our community first and foremost for coming out and sharing in this.”
City Council Chairman Ted Green and 3rd Ward council partner Quilla Talmadge know how to throw a safe public party in an open venue, thanks to their years of organizing the annual Summer Music Fest in Elmwood Park. They both said the second MACfest was a good event for everyone in the city.
“It was definitely a good event; my wife and I enjoyed it and we brought some friends along with us and it was my first time seeing Vivian Green perform,” said Green said on Tuesday, June 7. “I think people really came out to see Vivian Green and all the other acts. It’s a nice lead-in to our Fourth of July celebration and our annual Summer Music Festival in Elmwood Park. This shows what we can do here in the city of East Orange when we’re focused on serving the community.”