Fanna-Fi-Allah

Beloved Festival: decolonizing music

Oregon music festival includes music from many cultures, addresses issues ranging from terminology to privilege

For eleven years, Oregon’s Beloved Festival has embraced multicultural musical diversity, environmental sustainability, a peace-and-love vibe. In a sylvan setting on private forestland in the Coast Range, about 3,000 attendees could dance, meditate, practice yoga, eat vegan, and celebrate secular spirituality in a “spontaneous village.” But while many of its invited performers were musicians of color, its audiences were overwhelmingly white.

It’s an issue common to blues, jazz concerts and so-called “world music” concerts. (Oregon has other events that feature music from many cultures, most notably the Salem World Beat Festival.) Beloved founder/director Elliott Rasenick decided to do something about it — “to really ask why is it mostly white people here? And to take responsibility. The lazy way is to say ‘we’re in Oregon.’” Last year, he led a discussion from the main stage and promised changes. This year’s festival, which runs August 9-12, shows the festival beginning to respond. 

The reform effort got off to a rough start. “Last year I really wanted to start to talk about racism and white supremacy,” Rasenick recalled, envisioning an on-stage discussion between him and an activist of color. “I started asking black women who did anti racist work and kept getting these subtle ‘I’m not comfortable with that’ vibes.” Finally, Portland activist Teressa Raiford “made me understand how difficult that is — to ask a black person to teach white people about white supremacy, and to ask someone I haven’t worked with to build trust to work with me. That showed me that I need to show up and demonstrate I’m worthy of trust before I ask for things that require trust.”

Photo by Jess Stewart Maize.
Trust demonstrated at Beloved Festival 2018. Photo by Jess Stewart Maize.

Continues…