The Truth In This Art with Navasha Daya-Hill & Fanon Hill of the Youth Resiliency Institute
bonus

The Truth In This Art with Navasha Daya-Hill & Fanon Hill of the Youth Resiliency Institute

Rob Lee:

Welcome back to the Truth in Us Art. Thank you for joining me for my conversations bridging arts, culture, and community. I am your host, Rob Lee. And before we get started, I'd like to invite you to visit my website, the truth in this art dot com, for my full archive of nearly 800 interviews from artists to curators, musicians, and filmmakers. They're just a few clicks away.

Rob Lee:

Today, I have a special conversation with 2 special guests, and they're here to discuss, among many things, the 8th Annual Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival. My guests are the cofounders of the Youth Resiliency Institute. First up, we have deputy director and director of healing and performing arts, Navasha Daya. And joining Navasha, we have the executive director, Fanan Hill. Welcome to the podcast.

Fanon Hill:

Fantastic. You go. So I'm Fannon Hill. I serve as cofounder and executive director of the Youth Resiliency Institute. I'm also a trainer for the National Rights of Passage Institute that conducts facilitates African senate rights of passage processes for children and youth and works with individuals who are incarcerated, returning citizens as well.

Fanon Hill:

And I also absolutely love being married. Healthy relationships are very important, and so I'll stop there.

Navasha Daya:

Oh, wow. Thank you. I want to answer for him. I am Navasha Daya. I'm a professional, performing and recording artist, also a culture, arts, and spiritual activist.

Navasha Daya:

I'm also cofounder and deputy director and director of the healing and performing arts of the Youth Resilience Institute, and we're both co directors of the Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival. And I'm a holistic wellness practitioner. I guess I can say that as well.

Rob Lee:

Thank you. It I I and I must say this I must say this because people have come to expect this. 1, thank you both for for the introductions. And, I think a detail I'll add since we're all wearing them, thank you for wearing your glasses. Damn.

Fanon Hill:

Only for you, brother Rob. Only for you.

Rob Lee:

We gotta shout out our 4 eyed bespectacled brethren and sisters. Let's not forget that. Always. So I wanna go back a little bit, in in in the introduction, and kinda, like, touch on sort of, like, the the the founding, the story of founding, Youth Resiliency Institute. What brought about this work?

Rob Lee:

Why was it a an area of interest? What what prompted it ultimately?

Navasha Daya:

So Youth Resilience Institute was founded in 2010 by myself, Fana Hill, who's my husband, and 2 young people who are, were in foster care at the time. And 1 of them has actually returned and is working with us now. So it was founded because it was just necessary. I mean, we needed to have a space for young people, children, and families to come learn about who they are, utilize the arts and culture. So we found it.

Navasha Daya:

We had, so we were city wide and then we also had a focused area in Cherry Hill, the community called Cherry Hill. And Fanon went there years before that and started working and said I'm gonna come back. And I'm 1 of the elders who he's partnered with, mama Shirley Folkes, who's also cofounder of the Cherry Arts and Music Waterfront Festival with Fanon. She said, I don't believe you. And Fanon did a whole documentary on this, on mama Shirley's called I'm Nava Love.

Navasha Daya:

But, he came back and he brought me and we just started working in that community, with no funding, 0 private or public funding. And I would my degree my background is in music education, so I was teaching notation. We brought in people that we knew to teach things. It was no book, no ball. And over time, we've developed the relationship and partnerships and earned the trust to do where we are now where we have this festival engagement in elders, engaging families.

Navasha Daya:

And we also have citywide programmers, so we have some young people who are now in their late twenties who we worked with when they were, like, 9 or whatever, and they work with our organization as well. So we mentor and guide. So it was just very important. I don't know what you wanna add to that, Fionna.

Fanon Hill:

Yeah. And I'll just add, that for us as an arts based organization, we really wanted to foster what are known as protective factors. Those are factors that reduce risk in children and youth, and in our research, in our work, we discovered that 1 of the most powerful protective factors is cross generational programming. Programming where you may have a great grandmother and a middle schooler working together creating art, and utilizing that art to address a social justice issue in their community, or on their street for that matter. And so to be able to work with the entire family unit, has been very rewarding and has allowed us to to learn, to grow, you know, in our own right as practitioners and as members of the community.

Rob Lee:

Thank you. And, I I think there's a lot of, like, power in our being able to utilize that as 1 of the vehicles, 1 of the avenues in which to engage folks. You know? And and I wanna get sort of the art story from the 2 of you or that early creative story that I realized that that's something I gotta ask. But, you know, in in doing this, you know, the the sort of genesis of this, I I talked about it and the timeliness of it.

Rob Lee:

We we had a debate yesterday. Right? And, you know, 1 of the participants in it was 1 of the accelerants that prompted having these sorts of conversations

Navasha Daya:

Mhmm.

Rob Lee:

Talking to folks about what's really happening in a place and using arts and community culture, all of that as sort of the entry point to get into those conversations to discuss what's really happening in a sort of real way. And it's not going down a political lane or anything along those lines, but it's like, you know, places that have people that look like you and I, it's it's bad. You know, it's this, it's that, and it's like, you're not talking to those people. You know, you're having conversations with you had no idea what's happening there. Right.

Rob Lee:

So I think, you know, as far as why I started going about this and that way, I think arts is a nice cross section. It's so many different people, so many different stories. And a lot of times, you find that people are told that their art, their story, their their their thinking doesn't matter as much. So I'm gonna do my little part to try to try to change that through this this podcast.

Fanon Hill:

Yes. Yes. And thank you for it. Thank you.

Navasha Daya:

It's very important.

Rob Lee:

So I gotta ask. Thank you. And, so I gotta ask. What what was 1 of those first, like, or early art experiences for you that kinda led to this path? Because it's not just, yeah, I was an accountant, and then I said, yeah, I'm gonna dive into being around arts and being involved in the arts to a capacity.

Rob Lee:

You know, so talk about a little bit of that, 1 of those early, like, art experiences that kinda, you know, you look back at and like, that's where it started.

Navasha Daya:

Wow. Do you wanna go first?

Fanon Hill:

Sure. I mean, that's a very important question, and thank you for asking that because it allows me to really give honor to those individuals, those communities that nurtured me, and inspired me to do the work that I'm doing today. And 1 of those individuals, his name is Daryl Rippey. He's a poet, from Cleveland, Ohio. When he was 16, he was in a terrible car accident and now walks with the use of a cane.

Fanon Hill:

He's 1 of the most, resilient individuals I've ever met and 1 of the most profound, poets I've ever met. When I was about 5 years old, I remember being at a Kwanzaa celebration in East Cleveland, Ohio, where I'm from, and being in that front audience and and watching him, feeling his energy as he was sharing his poetry, with not just us at that Kwanzaa, but seemingly with the world. It's as if he was looking directly at us and and and simultaneously he was in Africa, he was in Jamaica, you know, he was in the Ukraine, right, speaking to those mothers who have lost, you know, children to violence. But he would always recognize the humanity within young people at those Kwanzaas. Who are you?

Fanon Hill:

What is your responsibility to the world? You know, you're only, like, 5 years old. You know, what what my responsibility to the world. What about my responsibility to my mommy and dad? Right.

Fanon Hill:

But he challenged us, and he would always leave with sharing the fact that we have a song, we have a story that we must share, we must sing if we are all going to be free because freedom is a journey. And he would always remind us of that. And so working with young people, loving working with young people, working with families, you know, my lineage goes back to those engagements with Daryl Rippey. So once again, thank you for that question, and thank you, Daryl Rippey.

Navasha Daya:

Wow. I was listening to Fanon as he was speaking and I was like, Lord, what do I say? Because I came out the womb artsy. I came out the womb singing and dancing. Like I came out the womb, you know, learning parents teaching you how to meditate.

Navasha Daya:

Like all these things that I am is how I was raised. Similar to Fanon in that way. And so I'm also east, you know, east Cleveland Clevelander as well. So that's a whole another story that you had you're gonna probably ask us about. And then, so my father sung professionally as a child and I come from a lineage both sides that sing and bring the spirit when they sing.

Navasha Daya:

If it in church and, in in any environment to bring the spirit. And so, but I'll train in ballet from like age 3 and I was the only black girl in the class. So I had this dance background, then I was singing with my family, making up songs. And then when I was 10 at a Kwanzaa, because our Kwanzaa community in Cleveland is very strong by the way, and it was very fun growing up and that's a whole another conversation as well. We my first solo in my whole life was out of Kwanzaa.

Navasha Daya:

I was 10 years old singing the Azanian Freedom song about Steven Beeko from Sweet Honey in the Rock. My whole family was singing Sweet Honey in the Rock songs. We were asked to do that at different community events and at Kwanzaa's. We did it every year. So my first solo in my life was at a Kwanzaa at 10 years.

Navasha Daya:

I was like, crying for dying for crying, like, at 10. Right? And full circle I sing with behind the rock audition for them in 2013 and then sang with them for like 3 years just sung with them at Keystone a couple of weekends ago. So that's full circle. Right?

Navasha Daya:

And I and I told my family, we're singing them songs wrong. And I was like, but some of the parts. But, for me, I had such great teachers. My parents being the first and then all you know, I went to school of the arts from age 9 till 18 in Cleveland. I I couldn't school of the arts is awesome by the way.

Navasha Daya:

It was like fame. And so it was fostered. My dance thing was there then I decided to go into music. So and then we have people like Chuck Davis who is you know, back in the day, there was so much money for arts in the in the United States and so we had these cultural experiences where schools will have cultural assemblies and you will learn about African dance. I was an African dance company at 13 and, you know, so I had a lot of these all these experiences that led to me, I knew at shoot, 4.

Navasha Daya:

I told my mother I wanted to be a professional singer. My sister under me who's now a medical doctor once said she wanted to be a doctor. So I get to do what I said I saw myself do. My parents fostered that and provided elders and teachers to make sure it was fed into me, important to me. So that's my experience and it's expected and I really, really am thankful for the gift.

Navasha Daya:

Thankful for this work. And then also with Fanon, partnering with him, he brought me into my community organizing part of myself which is from my lineage as well. And so, I did the spiritual healing all the time. I sung and I taught children. And And then when I got with Fanan, he brought me into my community organizing lineage that I have for my parents.

Navasha Daya:

My parents both do that. And so it's very easy for me. It's very fun and I love people. So I'm gonna talk to everybody. And I love talent from adults and children asking everyone.

Navasha Daya:

Can you sing? I don't give you 80. I'm always trying to recruit people for arts and all the time And so for me, it's just giving back in that way. I was fostered in my in my arts and so I just wanna make sure I pour that back into other people. And then I'm really we're really into, healthy cultural identity.

Navasha Daya:

So we utilize that in our work and along with being civically engaged. So I know people have to speak at public events. They have to go to safety meetings. They have to meet public officials. Our elders, we get them to speak out.

Navasha Daya:

Like, what do you wanna do? So it's not just making art. It's actually self development, but also in in understanding and healing. But also, what do we wanna do about these issues we see? So we I think that's why our work is very fluid because when things come up, we address them to the arts.

Rob Lee:

Wonderful. And, definitely there's alignment. You know, I always talk about arts, culture, community, and that's what I'm hearing. So Mhmm. And, real quick, because IIII hear the the Ohio of it all.

Rob Lee:

Right? How how did Baltimore come? How did how did Baltimore become, like, a location?

Navasha Daya:

I'll go first this time. So I came here. I had a full scholarship to Berkeley College of Music, and my teacher said you need to go to Morgan. I I've got into a couple of schools. Morgan was 1 of them, and Morgan had the best HBCU choir at the time, because Hampton did it first with, the late Roland Carter and then doctor Nate the late Nathan Carter started, writing, arrangements of Negro spirituals and so I came to Morgan.

Navasha Daya:

He didn't know who I was and then I became president of the choir later on in time. You know, he knew who I was. And so, that's that's what brought me to Baltimore, and I've been here since 93.

Fanon Hill:

Yeah. And for me, it was, just a matter of, you know, growing up as a child. Baltimore had 1 of, the the most powerful, poignant epicentures of rights of passage, practices in the United States. You had rights of passage and, processes in in Cleveland and St. Louis, in in in Oakland.

Fanon Hill:

And Baltimore had a very profound rights of passage process that they had implemented with a lot of different practitioners at the time. This was, like, during the early eighties, nineties actually, and I remember coming to conferences, rights of passage conferences in Baltimore, and those conferences actually introduced me to the the pulse of Baltimore City. And beyond that, my sister, she actually graduated from Galt I would visit her, my baby sister, and, you know, slowly fell in love with the city. I completed a youth development fellowship, True Mark fellowship at Case Western Reserve University, and at that time, you know, Baltimore was also known for having some fierce organizing, youth led organizing, projects, initiatives, and and actions. And so I really wanted to immerse myself within that culture at the time and to be able to contribute, to learn, and to grow.

Fanon Hill:

And so, you know, ended up relocating to Baltimore City, and Avasha and I reconnected. Mhmm. And it's East Clevelanders in Baltimore City.

Navasha Daya:

Yeah. It's a nice story.

Rob Lee:

It's great. And, Nivasha, I'm I'm a Morgan alum as well.

Navasha Daya:

So You must do? I know. Yeah.

Rob Lee:

Yeah. Yeah. It's, yeah. It's 1 of those great experiences.

Navasha Daya:

Yes. Oh my god.

Rob Lee:

Class of 0 7, but I still remember.

Navasha Daya:

Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. You're a little behind me, but, yeah, a little tiny bit comes deep.

Rob Lee:

It was just a great experience, and, yeah, you know, led me to these, 1 of these black jobs. So in in in transition a little bit towards, let's talk about the festival. Let's talk about the Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival. What's what's the story behind it? Like, this is, you know, unfortunately, like, I spent some time in Cherry Hill, I spent some time in, but, you know, there's festivals all the time, and I like to, 1, learn about them, but also have folks who are listening learn about them.

Rob Lee:

So what's the story, and, let's talk about this is the 8th annual 1. Right?

Fanon Hill:

Mhmm. That's correct. That's correct. So, you know, the the Cherry Arts and Music Waterfront Festival was co founded by myself and great grandmother and playwright, poet, mama Shirley folks, and you know when we met each other, as Devasha was sharing, there was a love for community. There was a love children and youth and families, and there was a profound love that we both shared for arts and culture.

Fanon Hill:

And so we took our time, we developed trust, and we recognized that there were some very, very, deep needs and gaps, in Cherry Hill per arts and culture at that time. And so we developed programming at the time when, Mama Shirley was the president of the tenant council, Cherry Hill Homes Public Housing Tenant Council, and we reached out, Devasha and I did, to our network of artists. And we shared about mama Shirley, we shared about, her work, and we made sure that they understood that there was a time and there was a place for them to contribute and to connect. And so we developed programming with Mama Shirley for a number of years, in public housing with young people who are now, adults of their own children, right? And during those gatherings, mama Shirley and I would always talk about the importance of festival, the role that festival plays within Black culture, the the significance of festivals in Africa, seasonal festivals, and so we we we put our energies together, and we took our time once again, and we had a lot of meetings.

Fanon Hill:

We had a lot of meetings in Cherry Hill, a lot of conversations throughout South Baltimore, throughout the city of Baltimore, and 1 of the remarks that we heard was, why would anyone wanna go to a arts and music festival in Cherry Hill?

Navasha Daya:

Yes.

Fanon Hill:

And mama Shirley and I looked at each other, and we said, it's on. And here we are 8 years later, engaging communities, you know, in in neighborhoods throughout South Baltimore, throughout Baltimore City, individuals who have come and come from as far away as Canada to celebrate Mhmm. The historical, the spiritual, the cultural significance of historic Cherry Hill. You know, Cherry Hill is very unique in that it's obviously in South Baltimore, but it her holds, you know, very deep historical significance as the initial and most extensive planned suburban style settlement for black folk in the United States. So we're talking about a history of the of development that stands out as an illustration of residential racial segregation within an urban setting.

Fanon Hill:

So, you know, when you when you think about that, you recognize the trauma, you recognize the the the decades of disinvestment, and you also, if you are an artist, you recognize the opportunity. For us, once again, festival is a communal ceremony. It creates entry points for individuals, you know, who may need to and recognize the power of taking control of, you know, their community's heritage, enabling new approaches, to make meaning out of, conserving local, you know, distinctiveness. And so the festival is an all day experience. As NaVasha often shares, you know, we purposefully curate all of the performers, whereas we will have a Cherry Hill youth perform on the same stage bef prior to a Grammy award winning performer.

Fanon Hill:

And so there's a mentorship that takes place, and there's a recognition of the power of arts and culture to to to bridge, differences, and 2, provide opportunities for new narratives to be shared. And so it and I'll stop there because I know the Vasya has quite a bit to share as well, but it has been a powerful experience and continues to be a powerful experience in the community and beyond.

Navasha Daya:

And we started it once again with 0 private or public funding because as an organization, you have the word resiliency. Right? So we are resilient as people. We were raised to be that way. So for us, when we say we wanna do something, we like to also make sure it is tested and done before we go after funding.

Navasha Daya:

Most of our programming, is always done for a while before we actually receive or go apply for funding. So with the festival, you know, my upbringing with the experience I've had, we want to provide these opportunities for these young people. And so the first festival was really powerful. We got to, you know, we had, my DJ Mighty Mark was from Cherry Hill and we had Baltimore club music there from the very beginning. And, TT the artist was there and I've always volunteered my, my my my performance and then I'd pay my band members, but it was just really wonderful.

Navasha Daya:

We had Lafayette Guildcrest. Like, we just pulled in people we knew and people who were from the community or from the vicinity of South Baltimore who were just really Hallmark artists. And over time, we were able to get some funding and some support that would sustain or at least give us a stronger foundation for putting on a festival because festivals are not cheap. It's in the it's it's not cheap. And so it and it takes the effort.

Navasha Daya:

And but we also take pride in in hiring community members. So we hire over 50 people from the community to work the festival each year. So there's an economic generator aspect of the festival, that is very is very significant, and we're very proud of that because you should do that. You should you're supposed to do that. You're supposed to make sure people are getting trained.

Navasha Daya:

You know, give me your w 9. What do you need? You need my you need my w 9. You gotta explain or this is a contract and this is this and whatever. And so there's a lot of, you know, workforce development that's happening within our festival as well.

Navasha Daya:

And so for and then we also have a full day, as Finan said, of stage performing that's curated with different genres and things to address the different community age groups and interest of music styles. And then we have, you know, arts engagement, making physical, you know, visual art, but then we have a children's section, and we have food vendors, all different types of food. And just each year, we have a theme. And this year is South Baltimore strong. Last year was, healing through the arts, and it was really powerful because last year, we had there was, shooting 2 days before our festival in Brooklyn, and people were asking if we were gonna end it.

Navasha Daya:

I said, we are called the Youth Resiliency Organist you know, Institute. It is happening. It's needed more than anything. And so that, we had a great turnout. We had the government.

Navasha Daya:

All the different public officials were there. And, and it was and it was always it's always safe because we're about culture, community, and family. And and when you have that energy in the head of it, it's about that. The energy of the space is gonna stay that way. And so we pray always for that as well, but, however, it's a space where you feel healed, you feel wholesomeness, you feel relaxed by the water.

Navasha Daya:

And, of course, being a waterfront festival is really important too historically, and we have our our guardian, which is Harriet Tubman each year. She is our guardian for the festival, and that's significant in regards to Maryland as well. I don't know if we're not gonna go deeper into that.

Rob Lee:

And I and I do have a follow-up question about it. And 1 of the things that I like of of having 2 guests at this point. Right? Some of my other questions are getting answered. They're making me look like I'm better than I actually am.

Rob Lee:

It's just like, oh, what are you doing, bro? But, yeah, and and thank you thank you both because, you know, it's it's 1 of those things where when I start thinking about festivals, I start thinking about sort of engaging in conversations. I think all of it is like almost an invitation. It's an entry point to go deeper into it. It's an entry point to for for the for your festival to to go into and check out Cherry Hill a bit more because, you know, even as a local, there's a lot of folks who are like, I just know Cherry Hill is this thing from a club song.

Rob Lee:

That's about it. You know? Or now You shouldn't probably go to Cherry Hill. It's like, no. You should.

Rob Lee:

You should revisit that. You should look at that, or you know how we have. You know? Here's, like, oh, I don't go east. Is is that we we we have certain parts of the area of of of this small city, not a huge city, that we don't go into.

Rob Lee:

So having something like a festival that sort of invites folks in from a communal standpoint, from, hey, there's music here. Hey, there's culture here. Hey, there's art here. There's there's there's people getting together and fellowship here. Mhmm.

Rob Lee:

But it look like you here. People that look not like you here. It's a good way to connect and lead to growth and lead to better understanding and demystifying some of these things that we kind of just accepted, you know, for a long time. And the other thing I'll say, like, you know, II1 of my favorite cities is New Orleans. Right?

Rob Lee:

And they always joke about there's always a festival every week, and Mhmm. It makes me think of, like, I see and I like New Orleans a lot because it reminds me a lot of Baltimore, and I see those different festivals down there, and I start thinking, like, how can we steal? How can we steal some of these ideas for festivals, and, like, what makes for a good festival, and what opens it up? So, you know, obviously, you've touched on a few different elements, but what what are what are a couple of things that come to mind that makes for a good festival? Like, I've gone to 1 recently that I was like, this is simple.

Rob Lee:

This is good. This works. People are here. They're having fun. I see, you know, sort of music playing.

Rob Lee:

I see, you know, the makers, the vendors, the artists. There is, like, the vintage market. There's the area for, you know, children. I was like, this works. And then you see other ones that is overly complicated, and it just kinda falls short.

Rob Lee:

So for the 2 of you, what what are, like, some of the hallmarks of a good festival, specifically your festival, but what's the hallmarks of a good festival in your opinion?

Navasha Daya:

I guess I'll say start in saying that, you know, to me, anything you do, if you're a visual artist, you're an artist, if you anything you do, you have set your intentions to a space. You have to say, what are your intentions? Our intentions, at least from my standpoint, is about culture, community, and family, and celebrating the community, celebrating the side of Baltimore, not just Cherry Hill, but all of South Baltimore where over the Hanover Street Bridge historically has not been invested in. There's a lot of development happening now, but that's way after the fact. We've been there for 14 years.

Navasha Daya:

Okay? We've witnessed the journey of it all. Right? So celebrating and even we were even told when we named the festival to be you know, to maybe reconsider because things were coming down the line. We didn't know what they were I didn't know what they were talking about.

Navasha Daya:

But we were like, no. You have to you have to name it and claim it. Right? And because our festival is South Baltimore Strongening now, there's also this element of we've always invited people from all around, South Baltimore to vend. We utilize different vendors and different businesses to pay them for different things like printing and stuff.

Navasha Daya:

So keeping the money within South Baltimore is very important to us as well. Economics is really important. This country is built on a lot of that, so we are very mindful of land and economics as it relates to our people and in the city, in the neighborhood of South Baltimore because it's very diverse racially and everything. And so, for us, it's about what are your intentions with the festival? Ours is culture, community, family, providing a space for artists in South Baltimore to be able to express themselves, to celebrate a community that historically was redlined, and also to give light over these community communities over the Hano Street Bridge and to show that there is vibrancy, there's beauty, and there's unity in those in this area and to provide a professional experience that's still rooted in community.

Navasha Daya:

So people don't always understand how to balance that. They have to learn from people like him, community organizer, of how do you do quality work and still stay rooted in the people. People get really into, like, looking good, getting money, all these different things, and it's not about that. It's about how do you stay intentional and with integrity about the historical aspect of that area and honor that. Because if we have honor in every neighborhood and every place, then we would actually learn about these places from this festival kinda standpoint because this is a way to express and share about the history, to learn about it, to walk around and feel the energy and the vibe of Middle Branch Park and the Patapsco River, which we have a song about, by the way, and, Patapsco River Love, you know, Little Drop.

Navasha Daya:

And so it's like, you know, it's important to have your intentions in check versus maybe you're trying to make money. Maybe you're trying to do something else. But for us, it's about culture, community, and family, and making sure we're providing a platform for the the the platform of the of these people on over the Hanover Street Hanover Street Bridge, excuse me, and Middle Branch Park as a backdrop and a landscape.

Rob Lee:

Great. I don't

Navasha Daya:

know what I said. I said a lot.

Rob Lee:

Yeah. I mean, no. That's oh, please.

Fanon Hill:

Yeah. Yeah. And and definitely as Nevesha shared, you know, a festival vote may be 1 day, it may be 2 days, it may be a week, but, ultimately, those festivals that are rich within culture and are able to sustain themselves are able to be sustained because entry points have been created for community members

Navasha Daya:

Mhmm.

Fanon Hill:

To give voice to, those nuances that speak to what it is to be, born in Cherry Hill, what it needs means to be, an individual who just arrived in Baltimore from Nicaragua who must have an opportunity, an entry point to give voice to his or her experience and a place within our festival, to say, I too am Cherry Hill. Right? So how you are able to constantly evolve, and you are only able to constantly evolve if you're creating those spaces, liberation spaces for community members, to to to give voice to the character, the tone, the heritage of their community through festivals. So, festival may be 1 day, but we're working year round, you know, preparing for the multiple per recognizing that there's not 1 voice in Cherry Hill, there are multiple voices, and if there are multiple voices, then how can we use art to make sure those who feel as if if their voices are never heard are able to contribute? And so that takes more than a day, and it takes patience, and it takes being open to learning.

Fanon Hill:

And so the festival is once again a ceremony, and it's a a learning experience for all of us. Every time, you know, we we launch, you know, programming July 5th after July 4th festival. We're gearing up and we're asking, you know, what do we do that work? What could we have done that, could have created a more welcoming experience in in environment? And so we are a waterfront creative black community.

Fanon Hill:

You know, it is not the Cherry Hill Arts and Music Festival. It's the Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival. Our festival is free. Water is a commodity, and you have waterfront festivals, and the first thing you see is, price. This is the admission fee to enjoy this waterfront.

Fanon Hill:

We're saying no. We are 1 with this waterfront. We're gonna fight to keep the festival free, and we give thanks for partners like South Baltimore Gateway Partnership with, Brad Rogers, Liz, Ethan. You you have some individuals who understand, the the historical aspects that require, 1, to deeply plan, to to engage in festival and to make sure that we get it right. We have to get it right to honor those ancestors in Cherry Hill who were not born in Cherry Hill, who were not raised in Cherry Hill, but they came to Cherry Hill.

Fanon Hill:

They moved to Cherry Hill because that was the only place they could live because of redlining, because of racist covenants. And so how do we honor that legacy and inspire younger generations to also honor that legacy and to recognize that this festival is not the Youth Resiliency Institute's festival. This festival is your festival. You're in 3rd grade. You're gonna be running this festival.

Navasha Daya:

You're gonna be able to stay singing something. You're gonna be doing something.

Fanon Hill:

That's where the tutelage comes in. So, you know, once again, Rob, I appreciate that question because, you know, we rarely get to speak about the mechanics, the machinery, and the the A little bit of work. The courage that it takes from partners such as South Baltimore Gateway Partnership to say, hey. This is something that we're gonna do. Even though people are saying it's never gonna work, why would Cherry Hill why does Cherry Hill need arts and culture?

Fanon Hill:

Aren't there other serious needs? And now here we are 8 8 years later Mhmm. And we get folk who are on the front line of all sorts of social justice causes who say we need to be at the festival because you connect the community with these resources that we're providing to make life better for them. Who would have thought arts and culture could do

Rob Lee:

Who would have thought? Thank you. That's that's that's great. And, you know, I think, you know, it's it's it's good to be able to dive into that and and open that up a bit because, you know, folks don't really get sort of the the mechanisms behind the thing. Like, I I was waiting for that that piece to come out of, like, yep.

Rob Lee:

You know, after the festival, it's, like, planning for for number 9, if you will.

Navasha Daya:

Oh, yeah.

Rob Lee:

And, so I definitely have added a question later in the rapid fire portion that'll dive into that, but, I got 3 more real questions I like to call them before I go into the rapid fire, And I definitely wanna talk a little bit about the, cultural and celestial legacy of Harriet Tubman and its influences on, Y, Ri. Let's talk a bit about that.

Fanon Hill:

So how lucky are we Yeah. To be living at this time in the same state, the same ecosystem for the most part, that the 1 and only Harriet Tubman lived in. Harriet Tubman called Marilyn Holmes. He was a Maryland native, and here we are in Maryland recognizing the power of her legacy, right? As NaVasha shared, you know, Harriet Tubman, she stands as the honored queen mother, the protector of our festival every year.

Fanon Hill:

And when you think about Tubman's legacy, not just as, you know, an abolitionist, but she was a naturalist. She was a combat veteran. A lot of people don't speak about this. She actually was AAA civil war Yeah. Combat veteran Yeah.

Fanon Hill:

Who, you know, after the civil war, she became known as general Tubman. Right? Mhmm. She was, a woman who was 1 with nature, with water systems, who understood the rhythms of nature, and those rhythms of nature allowed her to make those those those journeys rooted within freedom. And so for us, Harriet Tubman, you know, she's an important entry point, you know, per reminding, Cherry Hill residents of of all ages, right, of how nature has aided and abetted freedom struggles throughout history.

Fanon Hill:

And so when you think about individuals and communities like a Cherry Hill, like, a North Philly, like in East Cleveland, who do not have access to natural settings. Right? Who do not feel as if they have been or, are welcome, within park systems, within natural spaces. It becomes important to create a bridge so as those populations understand that, no, you have every right to be here. So for us, Harriet Tubman, us sharing about her legacy, creates those entry points for individuals, community members to say, wait a minute, you know, I need to revisit my relationship with Middle Branch Park, with the Patapsco River, my relationship and my responsibility in terms of, contributing to this park, making sure this park remains healthy, making sure the Patapsco River, is activated with activities that are culturally responsive, river, who once again would have thought that Harriet Tubman, who's just simply reduced to an abolitionist, which is enough within itself.

Fanon Hill:

Right? But this woman was so at 1 with nature. And so we do festival through our year long program and make sure that when young people hear Harriet Tubman, they say abolitionist. They say master of celestial navigation. She could look at the stars and say, I need to make a right turn.

Fanon Hill:

She could look at a tree trunk and see the roots going in 1 direction and say, I need to go this direction as opposed to that 1. And so once again, we're just so honored to be in Maryland. You know, the the the state that Harriet Tubman called home in the state that she challenged, that she pushed. And so through art, through her legacy, we continue to to challenge systems that are not rooted within freedom.

Navasha Daya:

And hopefully, in that, people are thinking about their own ancestors, and their lineages led them to where they are now and where the shoulders that we stand on. It also speaks to us embracing nature. We're made up of earth, wind, fire, water, and ether. And when we're in nature, there's a energy that we get into, say, why are we still why do I feel this way? So we have programming in the park, our organization.

Navasha Daya:

We've had programming, definitely, during the pandemic, we have programming in the park for safety as well. And are some of our young people just speaking how they feel so safe there, and they claim the park. They said, this is your park, babies. This is your park. And so just that journey of them understanding that this is their park.

Navasha Daya:

And these are young people who are helping to organize the festival that you'll see with staff shirts on at the festival that we work with for many years. And so for us, it's just a full circle moment because you have to put an image to things sometimes for people to understand the message. So we've been talking about nature and and healing and and the arts and things like that. Now you see Harriet Tubman, you put it together, you see the children, the young people, and the elders that we work with are like, oh. Like, yes.

Navasha Daya:

She's in you too. So anytime you see an issue, you can address it. Don't speak up like she did. You know, if you see something needs to be dealt with, do it like she did and like your other ancestors. So to to us, it's also the lineage of our own ancestors and honoring them through Harriet Tubman's inspiration.

Rob Lee:

Thank you. It's great. It definitely makes makes that connection. I I was curious about that. I was like, let's let's dive into this a little bit more.

Rob Lee:

So I'll hit you with these last 2 questions. The second a little bit ago, you mentioned the song, Patapsico River Love. Let's talk about that a little bit. What was the inspiration?

Navasha Daya:

So, okay. So, so Mighty Mark, DJ Mighty Mark, who's

Fanon Hill:

Mighty Mark.

Navasha Daya:

Platinum you know, he's doing so. We were so proud of him. He's just so humble and he's very, very humble. It's very rare. And I've been in the industry for a while I mean, professional for a while.

Navasha Daya:

He's very humble, very talented, very connected. And so, he we told him we're doing a documentary called Cherry Hill Charm which is a documentary on the festival and it comes with a soundtrack, always what we do. We always have soundtrack, movies, things like that. Fanon's a filmmaker as well. And a guitarist and producer, all these things.

Navasha Daya:

We didn't say that earlier. So anyway, so he you know, we had some rhythms from him. And so Fanon and I wrote the lyrics to that. We jointly wrote the song together, and then Fanon added some guitar and some music and things like that in the song. And so it's the love of the water and we wrote this before the key bridge, collapsed actually.

Navasha Daya:

And so it's the love of the water, the love of the backdrop of the festival, the love of understanding the power of water. On 1 of your our theme was water has no enemy actually during the pandemic. So the power of water, the power of this this appreciating this water, appreciating this river because of around the world, we're struggling with water right now. If you go to other countries, you if you when you travel, you'll see, okay. Water is really important here.

Navasha Daya:

We kinda take it for granted, but just the pathway of water for freedom, passageways, water for health and diet, water for peace. So water, you know, brings food for people who eat fish and things like that. So it's just, you know, just kind of the power of that. And so it shows it's our love letter to the river that supports the festival and supports these communities that we provide arts and culture in. And I'll say that and what do you wanna add?

Fanon Hill:

Yeah. I mean, I think you summed it up and, you know, lastly, I'll just add that it it speaks to, the importance of connecting, younger generations, children and youth to, advocacy, environmental justice advocacy initiatives, in their backyard. And so, you know, the Patapsco River, you, you look out your window in Cherry Hill, and there, there she is staring right back at you. And so how to celebrate the culture of this waterfront community known as Cherry Hill, through celebrating the beauty of the Patapsco River and the responsibility of us as adults to introduce, these narratives, important information about the Patapsco River. So young people in Cherry Hill grow up saying, yes.

Fanon Hill:

That river I'm at 1 with that river, and I have a responsibility to maintain, that that river, may make making sure that the river, excuse me, remains clean. That the river is indeed, activated with activities that speak to what I want as a community member that I may not be receiving as a community member, that I have the right to advocate for and to fight for in my own community.

Rob Lee:

Thank you. And, it's it's good. It's good because, you know, 1 of the things I touched on earlier, of when, you know, there's 2 folks on. You know, it makes my job look a little bit easy because my last question he actually answered. So I'll do.

Rob Lee:

Yeah.

Navasha Daya:

I I

Rob Lee:

love when people

Fanon Hill:

are thorough.

Rob Lee:

I was just like, this is great. Just answer it. Because I was I was curious about sort of the connection to the festival, but now it makes so much sense in connection to the documentary as well. So it makes so much sense. And that that that that filmmaker piece and the guitarist piece, it wasn't in the intro there.

Rob Lee:

Good.

Navasha Daya:

I'm a revealer.

Fanon Hill:

He got that in there. I'm a

Navasha Daya:

revealer. I'm gonna shout him out because he has so many he's done he's not gonna do that. I mean, he does a lot and he cares deeply and so I just wanna make sure his talents are acknowledged as well. So I'm very impressed because, you know, anyway, I can go personal And he's good. He's he's good.

Navasha Daya:

He's very soulful.

Rob Lee:

That's that's great. And, so with that, we we'll definitely tap back in, in a moment after we wrap these these rapid fire questions up. Yeah. But, definitely, the shameless plug portion always have shameless plugs at the end. So we'll definitely have those as well to, you know, let folks know where to find out all of the details about the festival.

Rob Lee:

So I got 3 rapid fire questions for you. And it's it's like that thing that's saying, like I said, what I said. It's like, don't need to overthink it. It's just like, this is what it is at this point. Alright.

Rob Lee:

So so here's here's the first 1. Here's the first 1. What's your favorite travel destination?

Navasha Daya:

Japan. Go on.

Rob Lee:

Tell me more.

Navasha Daya:

Oh, well, I go there. I mean, I performed there, and so I miss it too because since the pandemic, I haven't been back for, you know, because of just the strictness of it. But Japan, the Pacific Ocean has a different energy, obviously, because they didn't have the transatlantic slave trade. And And you can clearly, for me, I can feel the difference over there versus when I you're going to Africa or going that side when I travel. But, Japan just holds a really special place musically.

Navasha Daya:

It's a nice beautiful island and historically for myself I've experienced a lot of healing there, and a lot of great artistic expression. So shout out to Shiokino, my big brother in Japan. I can't wait to get back there and and tour, but also tour my next album. So I'm just excited. I'll be there for that.

Navasha Daya:

I know that's not a problem, but I just miss Japan. Japan is 1 of my favorite destinations at this point. I don't mind sitting on a plane for a long time. I'm a traveler.

Fanon Hill:

And I'd have to say Benin, West Africa. The energy is like no other place I've ever been. The understanding, the connection between the the African diaspora, you have so many individuals who are today known as Haitians, who descended from that area, those ethnic groups within the area that today is known as Benin. The music, the food, and there's just a certain vibration in Benin that just roots me. And I feel very at 1 at home in Benin.

Fanon Hill:

The spiritual traditions in Benin are just potent. That's all I'll say. They're potent. They're poignant, and they are just so regal, so beautiful. The art in Benin is just regal.

Fanon Hill:

It's just beautiful. So definitely not overthinking it, Rob. Benin Benin Benin.

Rob Lee:

It's great. And, I I've been studying Japanese, so that's why I was just like, oh, my my ears perked up. I like, I'm almost 300 days in with the Duolingo.

Navasha Daya:

Oh, wow. That's not easy language either. It's very complicated. Yeah.

Rob Lee:

I I was chatting with a guy that I follow on Instagram. He's a boxer, and I threw something at him and, like, katakana. He was, like, alright. I got you. I was like, it's working.

Rob Lee:

It works. So this is the next 1. And I kinda teased this a little bit earlier. Could you describe the feeling on, you know, the day of the festival? You know, as, you know, as folks are, like, coming, I guess, this sort of initiation, like, things are kicking off, what is that feeling?

Navasha Daya:

Oh, great. Well, that is the question. So initially, what happens is at 6 in the morning and 5 in the morning, miss and Vashu's getting up and doing stuff. I'm a speak for myself. And at 7, the stage is coming and then Vashj is directing the stage.

Navasha Daya:

Like, it's a whole lot of preparation and setup. Right? And at 1 o'clock, I wanna say 12, maybe it's around 12 because Avengers are still coming and stuff. Because we have people who coordinate things, but we're overseeing it. By the time it settles, I go and I just feel good.

Navasha Daya:

I just feel like, you know, I feel like we're creating this party's experience, initiation, party experience, celebration for 4 people to come to. Not the pressure of decorating, nothing like that, but just like the space for the experience people may need.

Fanon Hill:

Yeah.

Navasha Daya:

And so to breathe in that and say and then see the children dancing and jumping on the bouncy houses and eating food and people walking around and then, you know, performing. It's amazing. It always comes together, but it's always like this movement of quick movement, quick movement, quick movement. People asking us questions, you know, da da da da, And each year it gets easier, and it's just what it is. You know what I'm saying?

Navasha Daya:

And then you have the end of the night where we have our own Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival fireworks that we have courtesy of, support from South Baltimore Gateway Partnership that happens right there in the Patapsco River at the same time as the 1 downtown, 9:30 PM by the way. And historically, people there would come to the park to see the 1 downtown. And then when we started our festival there, we have our own there. So you're just watching it. And our young people would design the, you know, the colors we wanna have and stuff like that.

Navasha Daya:

So it's very powerful for, us to sit back and watch that and just be like, okay. And then it break down. So, you know, it's a wonderful I feel I feel very honored to do this. I can't, you know, it's still amazing to do it every time. Every year I'm like really amazed at the vision of doing this and, and and, you know, my mother always say, you were always producing stuff when you were little.

Navasha Daya:

I was like, really? I was like, okay. But it's beautiful and to be able to provide support financially for people who are working at the festival. I'm very aware of you know you never wanna shame people. You don't know what people's money is like so we're very sensitive to that as an organization too.

Navasha Daya:

So to provide that space as well for community members and other artists and just show seeing people perform on stage. Miss Nivasha, that was great. I performed. I can't wait till next year. I'm a get this.

Navasha Daya:

I'm a do that. I'm like, man, is this is this that's the point. We're supposed to be like I'm at the age where I'm reaching forward to be mentored by elders, but I'm reaching back to bring people with me. So it's like a beautiful space that to be in where you're like mentoring and being mentored and so just to have that space and have these wonderful artists like Sister Carol and people like that performing on the stage, Money Love last year like, it is the bomb.

Rob Lee:

It's great. Thank you.

Navasha Daya:

I probably took up your time. I'm sorry.

Fanon Hill:

You think you did?

Rob Lee:

Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

Fanon Hill:

Yeah. My response is easy. It's it's it's that 6 AM morning view, being in total serenity, looking at Middle Branch Park,

Navasha Daya:

Mhmm.

Fanon Hill:

On the banks of the Patapsco River. The Patapsco River, the sun is just dancing, you know, off the surface of the river, And it's as if the river, the park is sanctioning us and giving us permission to proceed. And it's just 1 of the most beautiful, peaceful experiences every morning before the festival, just standing there on the bank looking at the Patapsco River and saying, let's get it on. We give thanks. We're humbled.

Fanon Hill:

We're honored. We will do our due diligence. Yep.

Rob Lee:

So here's here's the last 1. And this is the 1 that's a little so I'll give this preface before I ask the question. I read I watch a lot of travel shows. I watch a lot of food shows. I was just wrapping up on these culinary arts month interviews, so food has been on my mind.

Navasha Daya:

Mhmm.

Rob Lee:

So I'm very curious, you know, about the habits of folks, especially when it comes to a festival. So what's that festival, like, food item that you're looking forward to? It doesn't have to necessarily be, you know, this festival, but just generally. Like, there are certain things that are festival food items. So what's the the 1 that you look forward to?

Navasha Daya:

So I'm a foodie, by the way. I'm plant based, though, but I'm a foodie. I used to eat funnel cakes, but I can't because there's eggs in them. So that's 1. For our festival, we have such a wonderful variety of foods.

Navasha Daya:

We have Haitian food this year, Ethiopian food, African food, Jamaican food, barbecue, crabs. We'll have crabs for sale at this festival. We can buy a whole crab. And then there's Iceys and popcorn and you know? So to me, it's like a it's like a smorgasbord.

Navasha Daya:

You could just go back for more. It's like a greedy time. Just bring your money and be greedy, and just come get everything. You know what I'm saying? Like, come get your drinks.

Navasha Daya:

Come get your slice icy things. Come get your, you know you can say I'm a try that. Let me see what you got. I'm a go get some of that. Like, that's the best part about festival.

Navasha Daya:

Then you get to go see different vendors, t shirts and earrings and stuff that you don't have to go to a store and drive around. You can just get up off your chair and go over there and get some food and buy something real quick and sit back down, get somebody's birthday. So to me, I think festivals in general, I can't say 1 food, is that you get to try different foods that you normally would not try in another setting and you're in nature and at our festival by the water. And so you listen to music, eat delicious food. There's something about that that's really powerful and hearing that good music all day.

Navasha Daya:

So it's just like tasting food, water. I mean, it's just really special. Yeah.

Fanon Hill:

Lemonade. Nothing like the You're sweating profusely. You need, you know, some something to refresh your energy, your spirit, and there's always that vendor who has, you know, the the 1500 fresh bright yellow lemons just staring right back at you, you know, and you get that homemade. You get that festival made lemonade with the ice. You take that first sip and you say, I'm home, baby.

Fanon Hill:

I'm home.

Rob Lee:

That's usually the most popular person at, like it's like, that line looking like over there at the lemonade stand.

Navasha Daya:

Yep.

Rob Lee:

I don't know. Maybe it's something from, like, childhood or something. Like, I never had a lemonade stand, but I've seen a fair amount of them, and I haven't heard

Fanon Hill:

of it.

Rob Lee:

So that's kinda it for the podcast. So there's there's 2 things I wanna do, as we kinda close out here. 1, wanna thank you both for coming on and spending some time with me.

Fanon Hill:

Thank you.

Rob Lee:

Yeah. Thank you. And and 2, I wanna invite and encourage both of you to, shameless plugs. Like, share information, website, social media, all of that good stuff so folks can be up to, up to stuff. So the floor is yours.

Navasha Daya:

So www.cherryhillfest.com has all the information, has the, free parking locations because you're not able to there's no public parking on the actual footprint of the festival or the parking lot at Middle Branch. That's only reserved for VIP and artist, and you have to have strict credentials for that. But there is there'll be signs directing you to the free parking for our festival, at, at different locations, MedStar Harper Hospital, the Middle Branch Wellness, and then a new space we have at 3030 at Waterview Avenue where you park. We have a free shuttle company that comes and brings you back and forth the whole day, all that footprint. And so you can just, you know, come with your chair or your blanket, maybe a umbrella, and, you know, and just come and and patron and the, vendors and just enjoy the music.

Navasha Daya:

So www.cherryhillfest.com. And then also on our social media, you can see we, you know, we announce things periodically. So you'll see the different artists. You'll see the different the schedule eventually. You'll see just different things and different posts that deal with the theme of the festival and who we're honoring and things like that.

Navasha Daya:

So if you go to our Facebook page at cherryhillfest.baltimore, cherryhillfest.baltimore, Instagram, Facebook, and x, I guess you call it. I've never said that before, but x. And you can see what's going on and follow us there. I don't know if that's a shameless plug that you were talking about. There's many plugs, but I'll step stop with that 1.

Fanon Hill:

Yeah. I'll just say, you know, the other thing that's very important is, you know, festivals, the success of festivals is also, largely dependent upon the media in terms of being able to get those important interviews and to be able to share your story. And so, Rob Lee, for your listeners out there, your podcast is serious, is deep, is fun, and we support independent black media. So thank you for what you do because it takes work. It takes a lot of research, and you top of the game, my brother, the questions you asked.

Fanon Hill:

So, for all those listeners out there, please also spread the word about this podcast. Let somebody know. Follow. Follow. Follow.

Navasha Daya:

So the artist this year, we have Sister Carol featuring, Nikkiva, and then we have Andia Davenport, formerly of the M Brand New Heavies. We have, you know, Mighty Mark and Friends where he brings his hotness to the stage and some prize some surprises there. You have Ike Modizzi from Cherry Hill. You have Kirk from Cherry Hill. You have, elder and master, arts educator Charles Fun, the fun band.

Navasha Daya:

You have Khalil. You have, Infusion Orchestra, Latino band, Hotness. It's gonna be just burning up the stage for, like, a long time rocking the stage. We have, Lil Zay Zay who actually, I mentored his dad, but he's Lil Zay Zay, a hip hop artist. He has his his group coming out there.

Navasha Daya:

I feel like I'm missing some people, but I'll say and myself. Like, I always perform each year so that's you know, you're gonna have that. And we have some other surprises too, so we're excited about the stage and, you know, and work and and that's and the activation of of the performance stage.

Rob Lee:

And there you have it, folks. I wanna again thank Navasha Daya and Fanon Hill from the Youth Resiliency Institute talking a bit about the 8th Annual Cherry Hill Arts and Music Waterfront Festival. For coming on to the podcast and tell us about the festival and some of the projects that they have been working on. And I'm Rob Lee saying that there's art, culture, and community in and around your neck of the woods. You've just gotta look for it.

Creators and Guests

Rob Lee
Host
Rob Lee
The Truth In This Art is an interview series featuring artists, entrepreneurs and tastemakers in & around Baltimore.
Fanon Hill
Guest
Fanon Hill
Fanon Hill serves as Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Youth Resiliency Institute (YRI), an organization under the umbrella of Fusion Partnerships, Inc. Since 2010, YRI has been developing, researching, implementing and evaluating culturally responsive community arts throughout Baltimore City with a priority focus on the Cherry Hill community in South Baltimore.
Navasha Daya
Guest
Navasha Daya
Navasha Daya (nah Vah sha Day- ya), is an exceptionally gifted and seasoned songwriter/ singer, composer, producer, cultural and spiritual arts activist and choreographer serves as Co-Founder and Deputy Director of the Youth Resiliency Institute and Co-Director of the annual Cherry Hill Arts & Music Waterfront Festival.