On Sunday, June 28th, over 50 artists and tens of thousands of fans came together for Justice Comes Alive, a one-day, virtual festival harnessing the power of music to bring about collective change in response to racial inequality. The donation-based streaming event generated $55,000 and counting in funds for the participating artists, who remain out of work as the pandemic continues, as well as a number of social justice-oriented causes via PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund.
The 12-hour live-stream marathon featured new contributions by an array of amazing artists from around the world including multi-instrumentalist Neal Francis, who contributed covers by Moondog and Roy Ayers to the online event. During a Star Wars-esque opening scroll that introduced the current social situation in the United States, Francis covered the instrumental track “Stamping Ground” by Moondog. As the text concludes, “This is not science fiction. This is our collective experience. Dance may be the only road left open to Love and Peace.”
After setting the scene with that introduction, Francis took viewers to his basement rehearsal space in all of its wood-paneled glory, where he launched into Ayers’ “Love Will Bring Us Back Together Again”. With his multi-instrumental talent, Francis built the song from the ground up on guitar, bass, keys, and vocals—with help from Neal’s regular drummer, Collin O’Brien—and before long was enthralled in the funky groove. Alongside some clever video editing featuring stock footage of dancing crowds, by the end, the video had morphed into an uplifting rhythmic stroll that, to some extent, underplayed the dire scene set at the beginning of the performance. Francis said of the performance,
Roy Ayers has been one of my favorite musicians since I became aware of his music about a decade ago. Many jazz players who had been making hard bop records in the 60s attempted to transition to pop and R&B flavors in the 70s (Miles, Herbie, Donald Byrd). Roy did so gracefully and artfully. His music is an important influence to many of the neo-soul and hip hop artists that I love as well. I knew tackling one of his compositions would be a challenge but I wanted to use this opportunity as an exercise to learn more about the nuances of his production and composition. Black beauty and pride are also prominent themes in many of his songs so I thought he would be an appropriate artist to honor for Justice Comes Alive.
Relive Neal Francis’s virtual performance for Justice Comes Alive below. If you enjoyed the performance and have the means, consider making a donation to Plus1 For Black Lives Fund via www.JusticeComesAlive.com.
Neal Francis – “Stamping Ground” (Moondog), “Love Will Bring Us Back Together Again” (Roy Ayers) – Justice Comes Alive
Presented by Live For Live Music in partnership with PLUS1 and Nugs.TV, Justice Comes Alive was conceived as a way to harness the power of music to bring about collective change in response to racial inequality. All funds raised from Justice Comes Alive will be split evenly between the artists on the bill and the PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund, which was developed to address and continue the fight against anti-Black racism and violence in the U.S.
Directly supporting organizations like Equal Justice Initiative, Impact Justice, and The Bail Project, the PLUS1 For Black Lives Fund focuses on empowering Black communities, movement building, keeping people out of the criminal justice system while dismantling it more broadly, and a collective, international narrative change toward the equitable treatment of Black people. 30% of the PLUS1 for Black Lives Fund is also committed to small grants for Black and Indigenous-led grassroots efforts combating racism. For more information on Justice Comes Alive, head here.