CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Resident Culture Brewing Company’s barrel room has 1,700 square feet of space and it was still hardly enough for the crowd at Charlotte Black Pride’s Centerstage singer/songwriter showcase on July 17. Organizers brought chairs from the main bar throughout the night, and by the time the main event was over, the space was standing-room only.
Organizers started with the definition of three words. Empower. Culture. Arts. This event was a night of live performances and community, but it was also a reminder that artistic creation can be a powerful force for change. During lineup changes, volunteer coordinator TG Mathews Cox encouraged attendees to show up for the community meeting the next night, where Charlotte Black Pride planned to discuss local and state politics and have what she called “hard conversations” about the state of the community.
Performers sang about everything from relationships to self-empowerment. They shared the stage several times to perform songs written by each other, including several by event organizer, songwriter and playwright Jermaine Nakia Lee.
Lee stayed near the back of the stage when he performed, and only joined in on songs done by the full group. The event also advertised 11 performers, with Lee being the 12th.
When a performer was up for a solo performance, other singers were singing along by the side and dancing to each other’s music. Performers also joined the audience in singing happy birthday to several community members.
Leslie Isai Oliver, going by her stage name Jazmina, had the crowd singing along with her to the lyrics, “What is gonna fix it? Love is gonna fix it.”
Oliver is a pastor and a teacher. She said that her spirituality helps inspire her music, but she tries to reach everyone. Before the main event, Oliver was sketching patterns in her effort to learn how to draw.
As the showcase drew to a close, Jazmina led the final scheduled performance of “On the Other Side” with the rest of the night’s performers joining her. After the main event, performers freestyled with each other, covering classic and modern music and sharing the stage.