FMO brings all-black lineup to Dillo second stage in first year of co-sponsorship


Source: VH1

Monique Heart, one of the performers at Dillo Day’s second stage. While previously co-sponsored by WNUR, For Members Only is co-sponsoring this year, and selected five artists including Heart.

Gabby Birenbaum, Campus Editor

Months ago, historical co-sponsor WNUR pulled out of running Dillo Day’s second stage and For Members Only, NU’s black student alliance, was looking for a concert co-sponsor after their Associated Student Government funding contract with A&O Productions expired.

Both Dillo’s Executive Producer Rocco Palermo and Mari Gashaw, co-chair of FMO’s Dillo Committee, said the situation caused a “perfect opportunity” for collaboration.

With Dillo Day around the corner, the new co-sponsorship pairing has yielded a slate of five black artists who will perform on the second stage June 1. FMO had “free reign” to find and land the artists, Palermo said, subject to Mayfest approval. Bay Area rapper Caleborate, New York drag queen Monique Heart, Chicago rapper Dfree Da Vinci, singer-songwriter Amindi and Brooklyn artist KOTA The Friend can all be seen on the Lakefill in front of Northwestern students this weekend.

Ayana Davis, the other co-chair of FMO’s Dillo Committee, said black students should have a hand in selecting black artists.

“We don’t really think it’s right for (Mayfest) to be picking these black artists,” Davis said, “and so we formed a committee to somewhat try and represent what black students might want to hear at Dillo Day.”

Davis said FMO made an active effort to represent marginalized communities — FMO intentionally selected Heart, who appeared on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” to represent queer people of color on campus and pay homage to the influence of queer black musicians in popular music, Gashaw said.

In finding artists, Gashaw said the goal was to create a space where black students could attend and feel that the music was made for them. Many black students felt that inclusion and joy at rapper CupcakKe’s performance in 2018, Gashaw said, so artists like Heart were selected to attempt to “recreate” that moment.

“We were just thinking of artists that we love and appreciate and music that we felt like we’d never get to hear performed or seen at productions like A&O and Dillo, and to create a space where people could go and feel that was music that was meant for them, and that they were seen and heard and appreciated,” Gashaw said. “In the past, that doesn’t really happen.”

Gashaw said creating a place for black students like the second stage is especially important in the face of racist events on campus that have kept black students from feeling “joyous,” from the “It’s okay to be white” stickers to the noose found in Henry Crown Sports Pavilion.

Dillo Day has historically featured white male artists, so FMO’s inclusion brings a different and valuable perspective, Palermo said. The collaboration has been really fruitful, and Mayfest has been continually impressed with the caliber of artists they’ve landed, he said.

“They would tell us the artists they were considering, and each time we’d be like, ‘Those are so cool, we hope you get them,’” Palermo said. “That’s generally been the attitude throughout.”

Palermo said he is particularly enthusiastic about Heart’s performance as a fan of “Drag Race.”

Davis said she’s received positive feedback from members of the black community on campus. It’s important FMO chose artists, rather than students who don’t identify as black or “live the black experience at Northwestern,” she said.

“They were happy to know that we are the ones picking black artists,” Davis said. “We are the ones understanding black culture at this school and listening to what the black students want here.”

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