Mayfest’s executive board seeks to transform Dillo Day, prioritizing diversity and inclusion


Graphic by Meher Yeda/Photo Courtesy of Amy Harris, Xaiver Tera, Nate Guenther, Callum Harrison

In the first ever Dillo Day to have a lineup entirely made up of artists of color, Mayfest Productions introduced inclusive programming that includes virtual performances and in-person events.

Jacquelyne Germain, Assistant Campus Editor

Although Dillo Day has featured artists of color, this diversity was not always reflected in the executive board of Mayfest Productions, director of booking Amirah Ford said. 

When the Medill junior first joined Mayfest during her freshman year, she said the organization made up of about 100 students only had around five Black members, and primarily consisted of White men in Greek life. 

“So you’re looking at an organization that has historically always brought Black artists, centered on Black culture, appropriated Black culture, but never once had a Black person sitting in the room to make those critical decisions that lead this music festival,” Ford said. 

This year marks the first time Dillo Day will have a lineup entirely made up of artists of color. But Mayfest’s executive board has made a concerted effort to organize this year’s music festival on principles of diversity and inclusion. 

Compared to last year’s completely virtual Dillo Day, this year’s festival includes both virtual performances and in-person programming.

Entering its 49th year, Dillo Day is a hallmark of campus life at Northwestern, Ford said. If Mayfest is not representative and inclusive of the NU community, she said, it doesn’t make sense for the organization to even exist. 

Last year, Mayfest established its first diversity, inclusion and wellness committee and implemented required workshops to encourage members to evaluate what diversity and inclusion means within the organization.

Medill junior Andrea Bian, Mayfest’s diversity and inclusion chair and a former Daily editor, said it’s important to not only have a lineup and programming that’s diverse and inclusive, but also an organization where members feel welcome. With so many committees, she said it’s essential for each to understand how they’re engaging with and including the NU community.

“We should always be thinking about everything we do at Mayfest with a diversity and inclusion lens,” Bian said. 

Ford said it’s important to remember that music festivals are more than just concerts — they’re cultural events where identities matter.

A lot of thought went into booking Omar Apollo as the daytime headliner of the festival, Ford said. As a queer, Chicano artist from the Midwest, Apollo’s artistry resonates with a lot of the Latinx communtity at NU and surrounding underrepresented communities, she added. 

Communication junior Maryam Ikuforiji, co-director of Mayfest’s promotions committee, said it’s significant for NU students to see artists who look like them perform on campus. When she saw Teyana Taylor at Dillo Day her freshman year, she said seeing such a powerful performance by a Black woman was a meaningful experience. 

Ikuforiji added that Mayfest has become more diverse since she joined the organization, and it’s reflected in the inclusive programming of this year’s festival.

“You need a lot of voices at the table for the table to be inclusive and I think that’s what Mayfest is continuing to work towards and that’s why we have the Dillo Day we have today,” Ikuforiji said. 

Ford, Bian and Ikuforiji all said they’re happy with the progress that has been made within Mayfest in terms of diversity and inclusion since they joined the organization their freshman year. 

Although the NU community can’t gather on the Lakefill for the festival, Ford said above all, she wants students to have fun during this year’s Dillo Day.

“I hope everyone enjoys themselves because this pandemic, this school year, this quarter has been a lot for so many people in so many different ways,” Ford said. “And I feel like this Dillo, with how monumental this lineup is, it is a treat that we all deserve…it’s something that I feel is going to remind us that life is good.”

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Twitter: @jacquygermain

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