Larry D., a Delaware-based entrepreneur vends at Jazz Fest as well as other U.S. events and festivals such as Essence Festival. "Most people are from out of town from Chicago, Texas, California, they come from all over. We get the chance to meet a lot of different people and present different art that they've never seen before." Maurice, a Milwaukee native, has been frequenting CMF for approximately a decade. "It’s a very good feeling once the year here in Cincinnati. We have the Jazz Festival and a couple other festivals and it's always exciting, exuberating to see people of color, black, brown, white share common space together. I love it, I absolutely love it."
A host of vendors lined the entirety of Cincinnati's Fountain Square all weekend long.
Tim’M. West, Black Pride Organizer
"I knew there were a lot of black LGBT people in Cincinnati because it was just a large black population here, so I was like why aren’t we seeing that?" West says of the formation of Cincinnati Black Pride and its Jazz Fest party. "We pull from Indianapolis, Columbus. Columbus doesn’t have black pride, Dayton does have a black pride, so a lot of those cities will come here because they get to have those experiences that affirm both their blackness and their LGBT [identity]."
Jazz Fest is not only a celebration of black music, but also a celebration of the black people the inspire, create and enjoy it.
Matt Cuff, Owner of Just Q-ing Food Truck & Catering Business
Matt Cuff is originally from Cleveland, almost four hours away from Cincy on the highway, and he built up his culinary business in the Carolinas before coming back home to Ohio. His Cincy-based Just Q'In BBQ restaurant, food truck, and catering biz is a for-profit social enterprise that hires, develops, and trains people with barriers to employment. Just Q'In employees eventually transition from the program to higher-paying jobs. There's a gratifying experience in bringing a slice of his passion to the Queen City for the big weekend. "Jazz Fest is a big deal for us. This part of Jazz Fest Cincy Soul gives a lot of African-American businesses just a chance to showcase who they are and what they do," he says, noting that this year is his third vending. "Everybody—people like me who are professionals in restaurants all the way up to the mom and pop catering business—comes in and gets the same experience as everybody else."
Just Q'in BBQ food truck was one of many parked in Fountain Square and along the walk to Paul Brown Stadium for the evening festivities.
"The most rewarding thing about running a business is it having an impact on people's lives. That's why I'm in it, that's why we do it. We get a chance to impact not only peoples' lives but African-American lives, not only African-American lives but a majority of this crowd is not from here," Cuff says, nodding to the other state residents that flock to Ohio each July. Through his Just Q'in BBQ business, he gets to share his gifts with them. "We get to touch each and everyone one of them with our food. That's cool."
Morgan A. Owens, CEO of the MAO Brand
For local entrepreneur Morgan A. Owens, Cincinnati Music Festival was always a part of her life. “It’s just always been a part of my childhood growing up,” she says. “My earliest memory would be high school, but I’ve been going for well over close to 20 years. It’s just a Cincinnati staple and I usually go with my family, I’ve gone with friends. Relationships have come and gone and the Cincinnati Music Festival has always been there.” In fact, she compares the gathering to an official family reunion. “That weekend is just so full of black magic, a real sense of community and just happiness,” she says. “Personally, I’ve seen the black community come together and dance together, have fun and just kick it like one big block party or family reunion.”
The Empow(HER) Panel was one of many new programming initiatives Vibe Cincinnati put in place to engage the black community.
"Vibe Cincinnati has been doing a great job over the past couple of years generating activities around the festival," Owens says. "This year was really the first year that there were so many activities geared towards my demographic, as far as entrepreneurs and women in business, so this is really the first year that I’ve actually participated in activities outside of the music festival itself."
A dancing couple grooves to the free sounds of the Fountain Square stage.
Bertie Ray III, owner of Switch Lighting & Design
“I have gone Jazz Fest pretty much every year since we’ve moved to Cincinnati,” says Ray, who originally hails from Washington, D.C. “My best Jazz Fest memory—and I was with my wife because she always takes me—I love Jill Scott, and I just had just a great time. I’m an Anita Baker fan, a Jill Scott fan, of course, you can’t beat Frankie Beverly & Maze, and just seeing the whole crowd just jam to that.”
Song and dance were pivotal parts of Vibe Cincinnati's programming surrounding Cincinnati Music Festival.
Steve L., Clothing Vendor at Fountain Square
Steve L., a vendor at Fountain Square, has been coming to Cincinnati Music Festival for over 25 years. The Atlanta native first came in 1989 and aside from the potential profits, keeps coming back for the sense of ease that comes with the weekend-long festivities. “A lot of time when you’re dealing with an older crowd, there’s not shootings and all of that. I’m serious, I’m just keeping it 100,” he says. “I’ve never came to one of these and somebody got killed or something like that, which is a good thing.”