Transforming a Community
5Th Annual Uptown Jazz Festival in North Long Beach
The 5th Annual Uptown Jazz Festival in North Long Beach will take place on Saturday, June 11th in Houghton Park from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m The free community concert, organized by Ninth District Councilmember Rex Richardson, will feature Singer-Songwriter Goapele and Southern California’s own DW3.
The North Long Beach Uptown Jazz Festival Entertainment
According to Richardson’s office, headliner Goapele, was once called the “spiritual love child of Sade and D’Angelo” by Rolling Stone magazine. Goapele blends jazz, soul, and hip-hop with her own poetry to compliment her smoky and soulful voice.
DW3 is a North Long Beach favorite as Southern California’s premiere R&B, funk, and contemporary urban jazz powerhouse. This versatile and high-energy ensemble has electrified the Uptown Jazz Festival for the past 5 years.
The North Long Beach Uptown Jazz Festival Interview
PalacioMagazine.com caught up with Councilmember Rex Richardson on a busy afternoon at his home. With a full house of family and friends in the background, the Councilmember shared some history about the Uptown Jazz Festival in North Long Beach.
“This festival has grown over the years. It began under Councilman (Steve) Neal’s leadership five years ago. The Festival was originally my wife’s idea.”
The Birth of the North Long Beach Uptown Jazz Festival
Councilmember Richardson and his wife had traveled to New Orleans to the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival and discovered that “it was a simple concert in the park with well curated vendors. That’s all it was. We said We could do this in North Long Beach.”
Richardson describes the park where the event took place as a “very modest park but it was about the culture and the people and the fun time that they had.”
Richardson’s wife pitched the idea to then Councilmember Steve Neal and he loved it.
“We were in a place where Municipal Band didn’t play in North Long Beach. They spent a certain amount of money per festival and all we had was Concert in the Parks with a significantly less budget.”
They challenged themselves to ask What can we do with the same budget the Municipal Band had.
“So we came up with the Uptown Latin, Jazz and Blues Festival. Over the years, the title has gotten shorter to simply Uptown Jazz Festival. It has Latin Jazz influences, Blues influences but it’s a very eclectic soulful music festival that’s a lot of fun for residents.”
Richardson describes it as an opportunity for residents to come out and bump into each other.
The Impact of the Uptown Jazz Festival on North Long Beach
According to the Councilmember, the festival is part of a larger renaissance going on in North Long Beach.
“Every urban revitalization effort really has art as a focal point. So by activating our parks, bringing in music and being a place where people know you can walk to see great acts like Pancho Sanchez, Tito Puente Junior, this year Goapele, DW3 five years in a row. It brings a certain sense of pride.”
And there are many forms of art. “This year, we launched a program called the Creative Corridor Challenge. This is a program modeled a lot after the Philadelphia Mural Art Project and the Washington, D.C. Mural Arts Project.”
Those cities utilize murals and civic engagement to activate very blighted nuisance vacant lots and vacant walls that were targeted with graffiti. “And essentially transformed them from spaces into places.”
The Councilmember’s office allocated $50,000 of District 9 one-time infrastructure funding to the project.
“We’re in the process of installing 7 or 8, I think 8 new murals. I believe 4 of them are complete and the fifth will be complete this week. And when this all concludes, finishes, we’re going to do a Creative Corridor tour.”
A Community Renaissance in North Long Beach
The North Long Beach Uptown Jazz Festival and the Creative Corridor Challenge are also part of an effort to attract people to North Long Beach. “Five years ago, when people came to the festival we said You’re going to see changes happen every time you come to North Long Beach. And these people have seen the transformations take place.”
The Councilmembers points to the soon to open Michelle Obama Public Library and a walkable Atlantic Avenue corridor. “Today, we have landscaped medians. We have decorative crosswalks, brand new repaved streets, 150 new trees on Atlantic.”
There’s going to be an investment in a brand new Houghton Park Community Center. “Over the years, when people come to the Festival, they’re going to be able to see Phase One complete, Phase Two complete and ultimately a brand new senior center, a teen center and gym in the most utilized park in our city.”
For the Councilmember, this is an opportunity to celebrate and highlight North Long Beach. “To tear down the stigmas that have built up over a number of years. We’ve got great neighborhoods but our business corridors are challenged and they need to be improved.”
“So the festival and arts, you’re right, it’s all about bringing people together to celebrate really the uniqueness of our community.”
More on the Uptown Jazz Festival in North Long Beach
The 5th Annual Uptown Jazz Festival offers families music, food, vendor booths, a Kids Zone and more.
The Uptown Jazz Festival is free and open to the public. All are encouraged to bring blankets and low lawn chairs. No canopies will be allowed. For more information, call (562) 570-6137 or visit www.InsideDistrict9.com.