WEST ORANGE, NJ – Entering its fourth year, the annual Love+Unity Fest started by West Orange resident and R&B/pop recording artist Carl Brister will return to West Orange on Sept. 28 at the Oskar Shindler Performing Arts Center (OSPAC) from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Event highlights will include cultural displays, musical performances, food trucks, bouncy houses and other fun activities for children.

The festival is hosted this year by Brister’s newly formed non-profit organization Music Village, which was created in July to use the power of performing arts to support community programs and initiatives by preventing child sexual abuse, increasing diversity in the community and providing quality education in schools.

Sign Up for West Orange Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“I felt in this way, I could create an organization that would espouse the things that I have been working on for years so it would be tailored to truly support Love+Unity Fest, and the fest could be the entity it’s supposed to be and grow because the organization that houses it is based on the principals it espouses,” said Brister.

In 2016, Brister was inspired to create this event in response to the racial shootings, acts of violence and brutality that had monopolized the news that summer.

“I really got concerned about how we in West Orange could be proactive to help our communities avoid these types of incidents,” he said. “And I felt that the common denominator was that there was a need for more love […] first and foremost so that we could maintain the great community that we have and then even work together to make it even stronger.”

Therefore, Brister created The Love+Unity Fest as a “celebration of love” in order to bring people of different cultures together in love through music. He continued that after taking the idea to Mayor Robert Parisi and Downtown West Orange Alliance (DWOA) Executive Director Megan Brill, he called his fellow artists from different genres “to share their music and use the music to bring people together.”

“It was so well received that we’ve continued to do it,” said Brister, adding that the mayor was so “impressed and excited” by the 2018 event, which was held in Livingston in conjunction with the West Essex YMCA’s diversity festival, that they worked together “to bring it home” to West Orange this year.

According to Brister, this year’s event will continue to expand on the theme of unity by highlighting the mental health community.

The Mental Health Players—a New Jersey-based theatrical group that is “committed to raising awareness of biases and issues affecting those with mental disabilities,” according to its website—will perform as a way to “erase the stigma of getting help and all of those aspects that surround those who deal with mental health issues,” Brister said.

In addition to performers of all different genres who will entertain the crowd throughout the day, a variety of groups will also be on hand to present information about culture, art and other happenings within the community, including representatives from West Orange High School, the West Orange Hispanic Heritage Foundation, the Human Relations Commission and the West Orange Community Policing Division.

Featured performances include:

  • West Orange Idol Winner
  • Vienna Music School
  • Screen Age Band – Alternative Rock
  • Nestor Martinez – Latin
  • APMD – Gospel
  • Viola Skyes – House/Dance
  • Late Night Pizza – Rock
  • Guitaro 5000 - acoustic
  • Carl Brister – R&B/Pop
  • Lynette Sheard – Jazz/Blues
  • What’s Black Is White – Rock/Funk/Hip-Hop

“I’ll be performing too,” said Brister, who is also a singer/songwriter. “I’ll be performing a new song called ‘L.O.V.E.’ that really speaks to the times how this theme of love is so needed right now. I’m excited about that as well.”

Parisi will also be among the speakers who will “share words of love and unity” by explaining what it means to them “and what our community is doing to ensure that it remains and grows,” Brister said.

“The main thing for people to know is that it’s a fun, enjoyable event to come out, bring lawn chairs, be ready to dance and bring the whole family,” said Brister. “It’s for everyone to come out and enjoy and it’s free.”

To learn more about this upcoming event, visit musicvillage.live.

This year’s Love+Unity Fest is sponsored by Jersey Mike’s in West Orange, Gray Auto Clinic & Tire Service LLC, Let’s Yo! Of Montclair, Eagle Rock Lanes, 8 to 8 Barber Shop, the Chit Chat Diner, Manestream Beauty Bar and Advantage Termite & Pest Control.