The Made In America Fest was once considered a crown jewel in the cultural iconic status of Jay Z. Founded in 2012 and featuring some of the most soulfully relevant artists in the country, Made In America was also something of an affirmation that hip-hop was indeed a legitimate American art form that would endure. Well, it sounded good on paper. However, as is often the case with hip-hop or any other black cultural offering, the fight legitimacy is a long and arduous one.
On Wednesday it was announced that this year will be the last iteration of the funky fresh event, which was held on the Ben Franklin Parkway. Officials are also saying that they’re uncertain how the festival will proceed if it’s not allowed to on Ben Franklin Parkway. Currently, alternate venues are being considered, but none will compare to the sheer square footage that the prior location afforded. You can bet on that.
“This is the last year MIA will be held on the Parkway. Its unclear how MIA will want to proceed in the future but the City is interested in discussing alternate locations within Philadelphia for future years. When the festival first started, it was intended to provide a unique attraction to the City on the otherwise quiet Labor Day weekend. Over the years, tourism has grown overall and the need for an event of this scale at this location may no longer be necessary. We are interested in discussing the festivals future with the producers and look forward to continuing a partnership.”
Not long ago, Jay Z faced much criticism for his lyrics, the lifestyle many felt he promoted and accused him of being irrelevant relative to younger participants in the Hip Hop game. With the release of 4:44, he has once again proven that aging isn’t a death sentence for an emcee.
“When the festival first started, it was intended to provide a unique attraction to the City on the otherwise quiet Labor Day weekend,” a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney’s office told FOX 29. “Over the years, tourism has grown overall and the need for an event of this scale at this location may no longer be necessary.”
In other words, according to the Mayor’s office spokesperson, black culture was used to drive tourism numbers and was discarded when the desired effect on the local economy was achieved. The mayor’s office added that it is interested in discussing the festivals future with its producers and look forward to continuing their partnership. According to the artist formerly known as Jigga, the Made in America festival has generated over $103 million in revenue since its founding in 2012.
“Do they regularly reject minority-owned businesses that want to continue to thrive and grow alongside his city’s people?” Jay Z wrote in a statement. Look, despite how much the mayor’s office is trying to spin this, and despite no one else believing what I’m about to say, I believe there is a definitive racial component involved here, and for anyone to argue otherwise is simply wrong.
Look at how white folks act toward black people when they think no one is looking or that no one cares. It was foolish to believe that the phenomenon that has historically enabled individuals such as Pool Patrol Paul, BBQ Becky, and Permit Patty to disenfranchise and criminalize blackness and anything associated it was not in convincing the mayor’s office that a change was needed. They can claim logistic and noise concerns all they want. History, as well as the contemporary racial animus of the day, have taught me otherwise.
American Gangster, the film, starred Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the story of real-life 1970s Harlem gangster Frank Lucas. The movie debuted with mixed reviews but had a ton of momentum going into its premiere. Not only did it star two Hollywood heavyweights, but it had an unofficial soundtrack recorded by Jay Z.
Speculation aside here’s a portion of how Jay reacted to the decision via an op-ed to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Made in America festival is a multicultural platform that represents strength, freedom of speech, and perseverance for artists and music lovers. Philadelphia, an iconic city, represents those ideals. The location is integral to the pulse of the festival. The [Benjamin Franklin] Parkway is a cultural arts center that is symbolic to the more than 600 artists who have performed at this event.
The Parkway captures the freedom and spirit of inclusivity that drew us to the City of Brotherly Love. The celebratory nature and essence of this festival has inspired locals as well as visitors from across the nation to enjoy Labor Day in Philadelphia.
He did it again! Jay Z continues to grow and succeed. Fresh off the announcement that he and the Queen Bey are expecting twins, Jay has now been notified that he will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in June, which means that he will become the first rapper ever inducted by the organization.
We are disappointed that the mayor of the city of Philadelphia would evict us from the heart of the city, through a media outlet, without a sit-down meeting, notice, dialogue, or proper communication. It signifies zero appreciation for what Made In America has built alongside the phenomenal citizens of this city.
In fact, this administration immediately greeted us with a legal letter trying to stop the 2018 event.
Since 2012, Made in America, one of the only minority-owned festivals, has had a positive $102.8 million economic impact to Philadelphia, and the festival has paid $3.4 million in rent to the city. Made in America employs more than 1,000 Philadelphians each day and 85 percent of our partners are Philadelphia-based companies.
We have studies and reports that prove the festival significantly contributes to Philadelphias tourism bottom line. We cannot comment if the mayor has reviewed any of these materials.
We consider this stance a failure on the mayors part. Is this an accurate representation of how he and his administration treat partners that economically benefit his city? Do they regularly reject minority-owned businesses that want to continue to thrive and grow alongside his citys people?
In addition to contributing to Philadelphia, since its inception, Made in America has donated $2.9 million to the United Way of Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey. Cause Village, the festivals philanthropic footprint and hub for social action, averages more than 15,000 social actions taken over the [festivals] two days via ongoing partnerships with more than 56 charitable and activist organizations representing all causes.