The Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Festival is still more than two months away, but you may have seen the event and its founder, Catherine Morris, in Hub headlines of late for a few reasons.
For one, BAMS Fest is on track to continue last year’s party, which drew more than 2,000 heads to Franklin Park for a day of engaging music and arts. For this next experience, going down June 22, Morris and her team will bring, among some guests from out of state, local eclectic hip-hop artists Red Shaydez, Luke Bar$, and Cliff Notez, plus singer Aleecya, poet Ashley Rose, and dance troupe Samba Viva.
For two, BAMS recently announced a partnership with Berklee College of Music, which will no longer organize its annual Beantown Jazz Festival. Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington, the artistic director of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice who helped direct the Beantown Jazz Festival, will now serve as a co-curator for BAMS Fest.
“This festival is for the people and designed by the people,” Morris told reporters. “We want to create a space of belonging and celebration for communities of color, all while raising the profile of local visual and performing artists, and working towards building an artist-centric city … We are truly excited at the growth of our partnership with Berklee College of Music in a way that conveys their investment in community engagement, diversity, inclusion, and the arts.”
Morris, a seasoned event planner who has worked in that capacity for MIT among other esteemed institutions, wrestled with the idea for a big event like BAMS Fest for years before executing last summer. As she told the Dig in 2018, there were seemingly endless hurdles along the way.
“Being a tall, black African-American woman and being able to articulate a festival that is typically done in New York and California, people just don’t want to believe it,” she said. “There are leaders in this community who tell me we are going to fail. There are people who say that I won’t be successful because of where it is. And I just have a different view—Franklin Park itself connects six neighborhoods, and Franklin Park is underutilized.”
Morris added, “It’s been 30 years since the concerts at White Stadium that used to have large crowds. People don’t always want to go downtown—they want to be in their backyards … A lot of time, folks who live in Cambridge may not go to Roxbury, and [the other way around], but there is a total similarity between their interests. There is a perception that my kind may not walk with y’all, but when it comes to similarities in arts and culture it doesn’t matter what neighborhood you’re from … You have to convince the people that it’s possible. We’re going to be looked at.”
Having proved her haters wrong last year, for 2019 Morris set out to clear new walls, and to scratch another entry off her bucket list—namely, by landing two-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Eric Roberson as a headliner. At a recent BAMS Fest announcement party, Morris gave some background on the booking. Years ago, she tried to bring the artist to an event she was organizing, but wasn’t taken seriously because she was a woman. She actually told the story to Roberson last year, and he responded with a note and a specific call to action: “Bring me to Boston.”
On Saturday, June 22, Morris will do just that.
For more information visit bamsfest.org.