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Strange Fruit 2

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MILWAUKEE, WI - Now in its second year, The Strange Fruit Music Festival returns to explore the thoughts and emotions of local musicians regarding current racial relations in Milwaukee and the country as a whole. The event occurs from Wednesday, August 30 through Friday, September 1 at the Washington Park Bandshell, Gibraltar MKE and Company Brewing.

Last year’s Strange Fruit Music Festival was created in response to the back-to-back murders of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesotta. Chauntee Ross, of the duo SistaStrings, invited friends to her house to discuss what they, as artists, could do to counter the rising violence against young Black men. It became an impromptu cooking and clearing experience, a communal meal where the group not only broke bread as a family unit but also joined creative forces. Joined by Jay Anderson and her sister Monique Ross, the group discussed the importance and responsibility of educating both their own community and neighboring communities who have limited understanding of and connection to multiple positive and creative representations of people of color. 

For many who attended, the Festival was offered deep insights into how the musical community wanted to trust each other, learn together, and grow together. During one performancel, sirens could be heard nearby. Social media shares in the audience revealed that yet another young Black man had been shot by a police officer, making the necessity for the Festival all the more clear to all involved. 

The festival creators are following up the first year’s Strange Fruit simply because progress regarding the racial climate in the Nation in general and Milwaukee, in particular, is progressing at a glacial crawl. For many, it feels like the gains made in equality through the Civil Rights movement over 40 years ago are quickly eroding away. 

The festival’s name was inspired by a song made famous by Billie Holiday and written by Abel Meeropol after he saw a photograph of a lynching in the South. The photo “haunted him for days” and he wrote a poem to express his sadness and horror. The lyrics never mention lynching, but the message is clear: 

Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
“We have Nazi riots in the middle of the country, we still have people of color being gunned down or subjected to the new Jim Crow laws, and we have a president in office who openly supports and defends these things. In this type of environment, the Strange Fruit Festival will exist as an annual event highlighting the conversation, the emotions, and the progression forward, through music, art, poetry, and conversation,” said Anderson, Founder of VoodooHoney Records. “Working with an almost completely new roster of musicians this year. We look forward to having others join us in this effort to promote the world our music deserves to live in.” 

The Strange Fruit Music Festival also echoes the sentiments of Leonard Bernstein in response to the murder of John F. Kennedy: “We musicians, like everyone else, are numb with sorrow at this murder, and with rage at the senselessness of the crime. But this sorrow and rage will not inflame us to seek retribution; rather they will inflame our art. Our music will never again be quite the same. This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

Wednesday August 30th
Tarik Moody and James Julius Anderson present:
The Diaspora Orchestra at the Washington Park Bandshell

Thursday August 31st at Gibraltar Mke
Brit Nicole
Taj Raiden
Mikey Cody Apollo
Bo & Airo
No Seat Belts

Friday September 1st at Company Brewing
Dasha Kelly Hamilton and Still Waters Collective
VoodooHoney Horns
Kavon Cortez-Jones
Kevin Hayden Band
David Wake Quintet
Black and mad

our Vendors this year are
Lilo Allen with Papyrus & Charms
Mikey Cody Apollo with House Of Renji