SOMERVILLE, NJ - "Create Change: A Peaceful Protest Through the Arts" will be staged on the steps of the Historic Somerset County Courthouse on Saturday, June 27th beginning at 1 p.m.
Jamie DelRocco, the promoter of the two-hour event, is the owner of Stage Stars Productions; she is being assisted with the show by Reginald D. Hampton of Bedminster.
She emphasized that those who attend will not see, or participate in a traditional protest demonstration.
"This is not a “performance” or an open mic type setting - this is an expression through the arts. It’s about the feelings of the artists involved and having a safe space to share those feelings through their art form, which is why we chose to have the courthouse as the backdrop rather than bring in a stage and not have anything else visually to draw away from the art forms." she said.
"We don’t want to take away from the words and the statements being made. The need for artistic expression and creating social change through the arts is in the forefront, which is what Stage Stars Productions is all about," DelRocco added. "Our goal is to enlighten, entertain and empower."
A poster promoting the event reads:"Stand Together with Black Artists in the Fight Against Systemic Racism."
Thousands of people have streamed into Somerville the past three weekends to participate in seven different demonstrations, all peaceful, and all on the lawn surrounding the courthouse. Several of the protests have spawned marches down Main Street and on to neighboring state highways, but that's not what this protest is all about, according to DelRocco.
"We will have vocal performances, some a cappella, others with backing tracks, some musicians and spoken word artists, something you don't see too often," she said. "There will be dancers from all different backgrounds, from hip hop to ballet," she added.
DelRocco expects at least 20 performers, including: Freedom Bremner, Christopher Cherry, Delsy, Lisa Charlene Newsome, Leanna Cotton, Leah Jackson, CeCe King, Nikki Manx, Quartez, Lesley Ann Seale, Kira Seale, Deborah Fogo, Jasmine Crenshaw, K. Bernice, Cyle Jackson, Gillian Caruso, Patricia Allende and others
At 2 p.m. there will be a special dance session for children; an instructor will work with them on creative expression, according to DelRocco.. There will also be young speakers and artists.
"All are welcome to bring their children to join in the movement session, as this is a family friendly event," she said..
"Anyone who is into the arts takes to Somerville," DelRocco said. "It lends itself to the arts. That, and I saw the cool things they've been doing in Somerville. I've worked with the Division Street Music festival, the Rocky Horror Picture Show on Division and saw the work they've been doing the past couple of weeks."
A Branchburg resident, she is a dance instructor at the YMCA in Hillsborough.
"The other thing I wanted to mention is how we are taking all necessary precautions for safety," DelRocco said. "We have staff on hand to make sure everyone involved is wearing a mask. The artists will be on the courthouse steps and roped off from the crowd. The mic will be sanitized before every use. The dancers will have marks on the ground and be six feet or more apart for the duration of the event."
The demonstrations here and nationwide have been spawned by the death of George Floyd, a black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. After his arrest on suspicion of passing counterfeit money, he was questioned and handcuffed, and held down on the ground by three white police officers while a fourth officer stood between a gathering crowd and his colleagues. The incident was captured in an IPhone video that was shared on social media platforms.
One of the police officers kneeled down on Floyd's neck as Floyd begged repeatedly, "I Can't Breathe." He died after nearly 10 minutes; two autopsies concluded he had suffocated. The four officers were fired the following day; one faces second degree Murder charges, the other three are facing aiding and abetting charges.