By Jared D. Childress | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Multiplatinum southern rap group Nappy Roots headlined Sacramento’s Concerts in the Park series Friday, July 15, at Cesar Chavez Plaza. The event drew one of the music festival’s largest crowds, with nearly 8,000 attendees who enjoyed vendors, food and local musicians.
“It feels good to be back on the West Coast,” said Ron Clutch, one-fourth of the Atlanta- and Kentucky-based group. “California is the mecca of what America can be as far as freedom and progressiveness.”
While California is largely seen nationwide as a beacon of progressive politics, Black Sacramentans said the concert was “healing” amid the rise in anti-Black hate crimes, the ongoing unhoused crisis, and gun violence that has claimed the lives of innocent Black Sacramentans.
“With the shootings and deaths that we’ve had in Sacramento, events like this are important,” said concert-goer Erica Barnes, 30. “There’s healing in hip-hop and power in music – that’s why I’m here today.”
Barnes attended the event with Mykelle Holden, who said his cousin was 38-year-old Sergio Harris, one of the six victims killed in the April 3 downtown shooting.
Most recently, Sacramento is mourning the death of 31-year-old Gregory Najee Grimes, who was shot and killed July 4.
“Rest in peace to those who have lost their lives because my cousin is amongst them,” said Holden, 28. “My condolences to the families who have lost a loved one.”
The healing could be felt when the Nappy Roots performed their classic songs “Po Folks,” “Awnaw” and their biggest hit “Good Day,” which Clutch said is his favorite to perform because it “encompasses humanness.”
“‘Good Day’ is about getting back up when you’ve been knocked down,” Clutch said. “I don’t care if you’re Black or White, rich or poor, straight or gay — each day is a new opportunity.”
Concerts in the Park, California’s largest free music festival, returned this summer after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s hard because with COVID we’ve had to create a separation, but life is about connection,” said independent artist Erica Ambrin, who opened the show with her band The Eclectic Soul Project. “This event is free to the public so it’s really about bringing people together.”
Local band S3LF and the Sleeprockers, a DJ group featuring turntables, mixers and beat machines, followed Ambrin’s performance.
“There’s a lot of heart in our city,” rapper S3LF said upon stepping off the stage. “Our city wants to be heard.”
Roslind Miles, who moved to Sacramento from the Bay Area 10 years ago, said she has seen the Black community become more active since the pandemic.
“Pre-pandemic, Sacramento didn’t compare to places like the Bay, but it’s getting better,” said Miles, 53, who added that she came to the event when she saw the Nappy Roots were playing. “I support anyone Black who’s doing something positive.”
The support of Black people is something Nappy Roots doesn’t take for granted.
“It’s great to see that we’ve widened our audience,” Clutch said. “But I’m glad to see that our base is still Black. We’ve got to have Black folks. That’s our foundation.”