FLINT, Michigan—As the funky rhythms, singing guitar, and soulful keys filled the air, neighbors began filing into the green space on Dayton Street.
The second annual Heritage and Harmony festival drew about 500 people over three days to the decked out stage, headliner acts, and nationally known artists — but it’s not about the numbers, said Maurice Davis, festival organizer also known as the “King of the Party Blues.”
The groovy tunes allow for a pleasant distraction from day-to-day challenges many living in the Civic Park neighborhood face and the festival is designed to be a beacon, drawing people again to this northside Flint neighborhood.
"This is a diamond we are polishing up and it's starting to shine brighter way sooner I realized it would," said Davis, who also serves as the 2nd Ward Flint City councilman.
Among the highlights of the festival were performances by Kingdom of Desire and a return to Flint by Rhonda Clark, an R&B singer, songwriter, producer, and composer who has released three albums. Her top performing single remains “State of Attraction,” which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard’s Hot Black Singles chart.
Clark grew up in Flint and lived on Dayton Street as a child, not far from the Heritage and Harmony stage. Davis said it was especially meaningful to the hometown crowd to see her fly in from California to perform.
Davis also performed along with his collaborator and wife Beverly Davis, including serenading the crowd with an Aretha Franklin cover.
The festival also showcased the newly improved Heritage and Harmony stage itself, which includes bold, modern signage at the top and new lighting. The festival is one of many events included in the year-long Civic Park Centennial Celebration of this historic neighborhood that once flourished.
Across the street from the stage is the now-closed Civic Park school, several closed businesses are nearby as are the occasional burned out home. Heritage and Harmony also shows there is lots of talent, life, and people who — despite the difficulties — care about this neighborhood, Davis said.
"People are in foreclosure, people—half of them—their water bills are high. We are taking their minds off that stress and struggle for three days," Davis said.
The festivities also included a vendor fair, free food and community resources. Flint Mayor Karen Weaver also quietly joined the festivities. “I had such a good time yesterday,” said Weaver. “ We had to come back and just enjoy each other, enjoy the music, the food.”
Davis is confident that next year will hold even greater things. This year, many acts performed as volunteers out of their love for the Civic Park community. He hopes to increase next year’s budget to allow for more investment in entertainment.
"We got the house now, we have the stage, we have the lighting, beautiful signage...now next year we're able to put the furniture (in),” said Davis.
Sponsors include Ruth Mott Foundation, Kettering University, McDonald’s Corporation, Applewood, Genesee County’s Habitat for Humanity’s Flint BRAND, Hamilton Community Health Network, City of Flint.