Soul Summit is a project that hits me right in the heart. It is an inspiring example of community- led party culture that brings together people from all walks of life to share in soulful music in a public space. This event began in 2000, at a time when Fort Greene in Brooklyn New York was evolving and changing. A historically black neighborhood saw the increase of gentrification and a mix of people moving into their neighborhood. Rather than resisting the change, Saadiq Bellamy, Jeff Mendoza and Tabu wanted to bring together the mixed community and unite people in the neighborhood through the simple concept of sharing music in the park.
When they were growing up, park culture was thriving. People would gather in the park every weekend to share music and socialize in the sun, getting people out of their houses and connecting with their neighbors. They felt that this communal ritual of their youth was lacking as they got older and they wanted to bring it back. People used to hear eclectic styles of music on the radio, but that eventually became homogenized as well, making the need to share more diverse music with the public even more essential.
Soul Summit is a free event that takes place several times every summer on Sunday afternoons in Fort Green Park. They receive the appropriate permits to host the event, but there are no barricades and no security, despite the fact that the event quickly grew into attracting 7 to 10,000 attendees. There is a strong culture of self regulation and communal accountability among the participants that negates the need for such regulation.
Years back, three people called to complain about the noise during the event, raising some concern with the city office. Rather than back down, the Soul Summit organizers asked their community of attendees to call the city to voice their support of the event. Hundreds of phone calls poured in over the next week, shutting down the phone line because so many calls came in.
Free public events like this provide an important social good for communities – creating an inclusive social space for celebration, connection and expression. I would love to see this event inspire similar activations in other cities. Learn more about the development of this purposeful party in my interview on March 7, 2019 with Soul Summit founders Saadiq Bellamy, Jeff Mendoza and Tabu.
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Produced as a graduate applied project by Malena Grosz, MFA, Arizona State University
Intro music: “Moonlight Bounce” by Daniel T (with permission for use)
Podcasts edited by Corbin Garcia
Special thanks to Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University for grant-funded support of this project. Immense gratitude to my applied project committee for their guidance: Dr. Daniel Bernard Roumain, Dr. Rachel Bowditch, and Dr. Steven Tepper