After being cancelled last year at the beginning of Covid, D.C.’s beloved Funk Parade is back. Presented in a hybrid format that kicks off this Saturday at Alexandria’s Aslin Beer Company and concludes on May 8 with a virtual festival chock-full of talent, this year’s Funk Parade is an innovative celebration of music, culture and their 2021 theme: a celebration of Black Broadway.
A project of The MusicianShip, a nonprofit that aims to change lives through music by facilitating lessons, summer programs, experiences and more to youth and their families in need, funds raised via Funk Parade and its community partners directly benefit these programs.
“As The MusicianShip, one of the first things we did with our event platforms was to transition all of them — not only in terms of Funk Parade, but also for The Wammie Awards,” says Jessica F. Teachey, The MusicianShip’s director of community engagement. “That is something we are adamant about. The communities we serve as a nonprofit are statistically proven to be the same communities that are more at risk when there are issues such as flus or the Covid-19 pandemic. We were grateful to our funders that after what we all lost in 2020, they rallied behind us to give us the opportunity to be creative, go back to the drawing board and come up with some interesting ideas for 2021.”
This year’s iteration will begin with a beer release with Aslin, which will feature their collaborative Black Broadway beer: a sour ale with dragon fruit, passion fruit, blackberry, milk sugar and vanilla. On May 5, Funk Parade Historian Bernie Demczuk of the Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation will lead VIP ticket holders on a tour of the murals of Black Broadway, with performances by local musicians along the way.
“It’s a day for us to take 20 to 25 individuals, wrap them through this neighborhood, and really teach them why the festival was founded here and what happened here in the late 1800s and early 1900s all the way through today,” Teachey explains of the mural walk. “Hopefully, we’ll crack a little bit on their heads to teach them the irony behind why this neighborhood — and Washington, D.C. — will never be muted. This is an arts and cultural place, a melting pot, and the nation’s capital. There’s no way this place would be what it is without the arts, creativity and music.”
And on May 8, musicians, poets and other performers will grace virtual stages to conclude the 2021 celebration with the best of local talent, fully encapsulating the spirit of Funk Parade. For pop musician Roquois, who joins the Funk Parade lineup for the first time this year, the event marks a new way for her and other creatives participating to challenge themselves and their craft even further than before.
“I’m really excited to see what our creative brains put together as far as a virtual presentation,” Roquois says. “The music is always going to be amazing, but taking out that live, 10-feet-from-the-musician experience to being immersed in their home studio — I’m really excited to see that. I think with transitioning into virtual, it forced me to invite people into my personal creative space — and that can be a scary thing. This is a great opportunity for me to show I’ve got something to offer to you, and to share a bit of myself and my music with everybody.”
The virtual festival will also mark the premiere of the Funk Parade documentary, which Teachey notes is what excited her the most about this year’s events. In addition to highlighting the festival’s mission and evolution, it also touches on the historic and continued importance of Black Broadway.
“The Funk Parade documentary began as a dream by one of our volunteers: Candace Carrington. In 2019, she brought the idea to us, and really wanted to offer that as a gift to the festival system in the work that she does in the area. Thankfully, we were actually funded to improve it and revamp it this year. And so for me, that’s exciting because it is a picture perfect example of what Funk Parade and the power of it can do.”
For Roquois, the festival represents a step forward, not just in format but in the sheer variety of ways it aims to celebrate musicians and creatives of all genres and talents in one place. As a pop artist, she says she’s struggled to find outlets as far as shows and entertainment in the area, but Funk Parade’s inclusion of all is a new way for her to make her mark on audiences in the District.
“I feel like I’m part of D.C. growth right now, especially with the expansion [and] inclusion of a lot of different music [and] creative art genres,” she says. “Funk Parade is here and saying, ‘Hey, you’re cool, come be a part of what we’re doing.’ I’m just like, ‘Really? Thank you!’ I think of Funk Parade as leading the charge with all the eclectic artists and everyone featured. This area is such a melting pot. I’m all for it, and I’m super excited to be in that pot.”
Funk Parade takes place on May 1-8 this year with various event times, ticket prices and locations. For the full schedule, lineup, to purchase tickets or to make a donation, visit www.funkparade.com and follow @dcfunkparade on Instagram for more.
Don’t miss Roquois’ performance on May 8 during Funk Parade’s virtual festival. Stay tuned for new music in May, and listen to her album “Metaphors” on all streaming services now. Visit www.roquois.com and follow @roquois on Instagram for the latest.
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