Irvington well-represented at East Orange’s annual MACfest

Singer Vivian Green, center, commands center stage on Saturday, June 4, at the second music Arts and Culture Fest in East Orange City Hall Plaza as her producer, former rapper Kwame, rear left, looks on. This is part of east Orange Mayor Lester Taylor's vision to make east Orange a 'destination city.'
Singer Vivian Green, center, commands center stage on Saturday, June 4, at the second music Arts and Culture Fest in East Orange City Hall Plaza as her producer, former rapper Kwame, rear left, looks on. This is part of east Orange Mayor Lester Taylor’s vision to make east Orange a ‘destination city.’

IRVINGTON, NJ — The township of Irvington was well represented at the city of East Orange’s second Music Arts and Culture Fest East Orange’s City Hall Plaza on Saturday, June 4.

Irvington Neighborhood Preservation Program Director Melody Thomas-Scott, an East Orange native, and Irvington Building Department Director Ted Green — who is also the East Orange City Council chairman — both said the MACfest, which featured rhythm and blues performer Vivian Green, was a great event.

“I think East Orange sponsored an amazing event for a great cause,” said Thomas-Scott on Tuesday, June 7. “I think it is important to bring communities together and the East Orange residents did a great job of coming out and enjoying a spectacular concert. And to have an artist such as Vivian Green, who is currently at the top of her game, perform, was excellent.”

Thomas-Scott said the festival was well-organized and made her a little nostalgic and homesick.

“I am born and raised in East Orange, so it’s always a good time for me to come back home and enjoy my East Orange family,” said Thomas-Scott.

Green said he gets to enjoy that feeling all the time because, even though he works in Irvington during the day, he gets to go home to East Orange every night.

“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.”

The MACfest took place in East Orange City Hall Plaza, directly across from the train station, which also played an important role in guaranteeing the event was an unqualified success by serving as both a temporary art gallery and providing shelter from the sporadic rainfall that threatened to cut it short.

“When I was getting off the train, I liked what I saw down there,” said local rapper Leek on Saturday, June 4.”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, remarked he was “definitely into stuff like this.” He added he’s “all for any place with cool vibes where my people are in peace.”

“Any place with people where you have vendors trying to sell their own stuff is cool,” commented 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 the MACfest out, but it didn’t stop the show that featured a performance by Green. The festival also showcased rapper and emcee Rah Digga and performances by rhythm-and-blues songstress Sunshine Anderson; Aaron Camper; house music performer 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.

Mayor Lester Taylor said this year’s MACfest was better than last year’s and “next year, it’s going to be better than this year.” But he 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 at Paul Robeson Stadium by hometown hip-hop legends Naughty By Nature.

“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 up-and-coming fashionista and East Orange Native Kyemah McEntyre. Taylor said honoring her was the right thing to do, since the day was about celebrating local talent, so the rest of the world will recognize what East Orange has to offer.

“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.

“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 re-designated 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 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,” said Taylor. “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.”