WEST ORANGE, NJ — The many cultures and backgrounds represented within the West Orange community are invited to come together in “love and unity” on Sept. 9 at the “Love+UnityFest 2017,” a free live concert founded by local inspirational R&B artist Carl Brister.
Founded last year in response to the series of racial shootings and police brutality incidents that occurred throughout the country, Love+UnityFest will be held at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC) from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and will feature live performances from pop, rock, Latin, jazz/blues, hip-hop, R&B, soul and reggae artists. In addition, the event will also feature bouncy houses, food trucks, vendors and cultural displays set up by the many diverse groups in town.
“Music is the one unifier that can bring people together and we can just leave our cares behind,” said Brister, who is best known in the community for writing inspirational lyrics. “That’s what I wanted for this fest. It was amazing last year and I think this year’s going to be even greater because we’ve added more components for family involvement.”
As the father of two young boys, Brister said he was immediately disturbed by the possibility of one of these violent incidents occurring within his own community. Since he personally translates everything through music, Brister said his first instinct was to bring all the different cultures together through music as well.
“Even though West Orange is really diverse and a great place to live, I wanted to be proactive rather than reactive,” he said. “I felt like what was happening in a lot of cases—in the conversations on social media and in the actions that took place—was a disregard or lack of love for one another as human beings. I felt that if we were going to have any kind of a conversation about moving forward or making it better here, it had to start with love and valuing each other as human beings before anything.”
The Love+UnityFest comes at the heels of the filming of Brister’s first music video for his popular single, “Turning Point,” off his upcoming album “Love+Life=.” The video, directed by fellow West Orange resident Ricardo Robinson, was shot in part at West Orange’s Eagle Rock Park and highlights West Orange business "Pink Cupcakes," featuring a cameo appearance by owner Natalie Dominique. The song also features Bart+Tricia, a singer/songwriter duo made up of two worship leaders at the Life Christian Church in West Orange.
Brister, who was raised around music because his father was a soul funk and R&B musician, said he loved all genres of music from the start, but quickly became passionate about gospel and Christian music. He eventually combined his passion with his talent for writing music to create an inspirational R&B soul genre.
“I just combine all the elements of the music that I enjoy—from pop to R&B and jazz—and combine it with uplifting lyrics to try and reach as many people as I can,” he said. “I try to write things that impact their lives and make their day better.”
Brister said his single “Turning Point” is a song he wrote when he was faced with the decision to follow his dream of being a musician or to let it go.
“That was my ‘turning point’ and I realized what made me happiest was doing what I loved, so I continued to go forward with it,” he said. “That’s really what the song is about. It’s about getting to whatever your happy is and pushing past the obstacles and striving for your dreams.”
He said the story behind the music video is about people discovering their passions. It also features elements of a live performance Brister gave at Maplewoodstock Music & Art Festival in July, where he said he was thrilled to see the crowd singing along to his music.
“The greatest compliment for me as a songwriter is when people say, ‘Your song encouraged me to do this,’ or, ‘I didn’t give up because of this,’ or, ‘I play your song every morning to get me going,’” said Brister. “Those are the stories that energize me. And when I sing it live, everybody’s singing the chorus back and it’s this experience that’s so incredible you can’t even describe it.”
Brister said he is looking forward to performing live again at Love+UnityFest 2017 while “inspiring unity in the community through music.” In keeping with the theme of unity and “oneness,” Brister added that it is fitting that the fest is being held on the weekend of the anniversary of 9/11.
“There’s no better time to come together because that’s when we actually came together as a nation and I think this is fitting,” he said. “It reminds us that we need to embrace one another and not fall into hysteria because of the rhetoric.”
Those interested in having their culture reflected at the Love+UnityFest should contact Brister at carlbristerinfo@.gmail.com. Brister said he is also hoping to attract some representation from the LGBTQ community.
“We’re all here—and the more information, the more you know, the more you’re able to embrace one another,” he said. “Whatever kind of music you love, it will be represented. It’s just going to be a great time of music, fun and enjoyment for everybody.”
The release of the single was preceded by a four-part web series entitled "Turning Point: The Story You Haven't Heard." See below for a sneak peak at the first episode.