Music lovers unite! WBEZ, Suburban Unity Alliance and Harmonica Dunn have joined forces to sponsor the first annual Food Aid Festival to benefit Oak Park Community Fridge, Beyond Hunger, A House in Austin, Austin Coming Together, Best of Proviso Township and Westchester Food Pantry. Scheduled for July 22 and 23, the event features two venues and several musical acts.
“As we continue to grow and our work evolves, addressing food insecurity has become central to our mission,” said Anthony Clark, Founder and Director of Suburban Unity Alliance. “When families contact us, it’s usually food-related. Equity issues are all interconnected and we want this event to support organizations doing great work in our communities.
Clark and Donnie Biggins, founder and talent buyer for Harmonica Dunn, hope to maximize concert attendance by keeping the event accessible both geographically and financially. As such, they offer shows at two locations, one in the Austin neighborhood of Chicago and the other in Oak Park. Tickets for each day are priced at an affordable $25.
Clark and Biggins, both OPRF graduates, have music in common and have worked to ensure the Food Aid Festival will showcase artists from the communities the event will have the greatest impact on . The first day of the festival will bring ticket holders to the Kehrein Center for the Arts, 5628 W. Washington Blvd in Austin, where The O’My’s featuring Wyatt Waddell and Kara Jackson are set to take the stage.
“Friday’s event will have a more traditional structure,” said Biggins, who is also owner of Golden Dagger in Chicago and former head of music at FitzGerald’s Nightclub in Berwyn. “Kara Jackson is an artist from the Oak Park community, and it’s a real honor to have them on the show.”
Jackson, an OPRF graduate, is an activist, author and singer-songwriter who was the third National Youth Poet Laureate from 2019-2020. Their performance at the Food Aid Festival Friday Show precedes the release of their debut album this fall. In 2020, Chicago Reader’s Gossip Wolf said Jackson’s “striking acoustic guitar melodies and tender vocals go straight to your stomach.” Notable Chicago-based artists The O’My’s and Wyatt Wydell will complete the evening with R&B sounds and meaningful melodies.
Day two ticket holders will be welcomed to The School at Rock Oak Park, 219 Lake St, Oak Park, for a smoother afternoon and evening of live music. Artists such as Mary Lane, FURY, Mikey Everything, Since96ix, Yomí, Trichomes and The School of Rock show crew will perform between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 23. Taylor’s Tacos will be at School of Rock on Saturday to serve up their “street tocos for the soul.
“I said yes right away and I’m thrilled to be partnering with the Kehrein Center for the Arts,” said Amy Renzulli, owner of the Rock Oak Park school. “When it comes to using music, art and food to help the community, I will always raise my hand.”
Eighty-six-year-old headliner Mary Lane is a member of the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame and her first solo album in two decades, Travelin’ Woman, released in 2019, helped her gain recognition as ” Returning Artist of the Year”. by Living Blues Magazine. Lane received the prestigious Koko Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Jus Blues Music Foundation last year. Expect her soulful, timeless voice to connect with the audience.
“We are thrilled and truly honored to welcome legendary blues singer Mary Lane,” Renzulli said. “We owe our rock and roll roots to groundbreaking musicians like her and her fellow blues musicians. We look forward to seeing the incredible music lineup and giving back to the community at a time when resources are limited.
The Saturday concert also features a hyperlocal twist with performances from hip-hop artist, Oak Park native and LGBTQ activist Mikey Everything and Austin-based rapper FURY. Sure to be a draw, FURY, which stands for “Finally Understanding the Real You,” will bring its socially conscious themes to the stage; an artist and activist, she is focused on revitalizing Chicago’s West Side – her passion for community aligns well with Food Aid’s mission.
Clark established Suburban Unity Alliance in 2016 and over the years the fight against food insecurity has evolved into a core issue that the equity-focused organization aims to address. He and Biggins hope food aid will become an important source of funding for interconnected community organizations dedicated to hunger relief efforts this year and for years to come.