On Saturday, June 22, the sophomore effort of the Boston Art & Music Soul Festival aka BAMS Fest kicks off at noon at Franklin Park Playstead Field.
Guess what? You should be there.
Whether you want to support people of color in the arts, women in the arts, local musicians and performing artists or just like to hear really good music, BAMS Fest offers something of interest for just about everyone.
Putting together the festival was a grassroots effort almost a decade in the making. Its fearless leader is Roxbury native Catherine Morris.
Morris has had a vision for the Boston art and music scene for eight years. While pursuing her master’s degree at Simmons University, Morris wrote a business plan for a music festival that highlights artists of color and celebrates local community.
Last year, that vision came to life in the first annual BAMS Fest.
For the inaugural festival Morris had to extend the artist deadline in order to fill out the lineup and hustle to get the word across the city. This year, the festival received over 2,500 applications for the 19-slot lineup, and Boston audiences have had the festival in their calendars for months.
Launching the festival has been a labor of love. “I just told my story one by one and really just connected with natives,” says Morris. “The beautiful part about this city, even though no one really talks about it, is that despite all of our challenges it’s so tight knit that someone that I know can advocate on my behalf if I just talk to them.”
Morris comes from a background of event production and social entrepreneurship making her uniquely suited to champion this artistic cause. Her talents are getting noticed. Because of her powerful work launching BAMS Fest, Morris was offered the role of manager of public programs at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to bring more diverse programming into the museum. She currently works both jobs full time.
Berklee College of Music, which has supported BAMS Fest from the beginning, is also throwing more support behind them this year, since the long-running Beantown Jazz Festival played its last set in 2018. Terri Lyne Carrington , Beantown Jazz Festival’s former artistic director and the current director of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice, has joined the BAMS Fest team as a talent curator.
The primary focus of the festival is celebrating artists of color, but it was important for Morris to lift up women as well.
“I’ve always dreamed that when people see the work they see that it’s by people of color and that specifically it’s by women of color,” says Morris. “I wanted to make sure that it gives the next generation hope that you can start something very grassroots and lead with a very powerful team of women”
The festival lineup also highlights women this year, including rapper Cipherella, local spoken word poet Ashley-Rose, the Brandee Younger Quintet and many others.
“I think it’s the women representation this year that I’m truly excited about,” says Morris. “They’re breaking down the molds of what it means to be in certain art forms, of what it means to be in genres of music that are traditionally male. And, I totally support the underdog in that.”
In addition to the 19-act lineup including headliner Eric Roberson, this year’s BAMS Fest boasts a few new features including a BYOG (bring your own game) hangout corner and four, free, 60-minute dance lessons with local experts in African, Afro-Brazilian, salsa and hip-hop styles.