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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

First Annual Unity Fest Shows UMB How Art Can Unite

Mainstream culture assumes that Friday night shenanigans lead the average college student strictly through a myriad of substance-laden misadventures: a perception that certainly has its truths. And while such nights are certainly worthwhile, many students instead recently found themselves enjoying an empowering night full of art, music, dancing, and activism.
Friday, November 6th witnessed the University of Massachusetts Boston’s very first annual Unity Fest, an event seeking to emphasize the importance of uniting as a community to solve today’s global problems.
Unity Fest, hosted by UMass Boston student and aspiring comedian Andrew Coke Buntin, was a truly unique take on working together towards change through the magnetic strength of art and performance.
“We feel that art in any form is a crucial craft for people to openly express and listen in on struggles, strengths, and strategies to live a bit better every day,” said Nick Guerrero, student coordinator and president of the UMass Boston’s chapter of Net Impact. “This event showcases the infinite opportunities of what our art can contribute to and what collaborations can be made within similar interests, visions, and movements.”
The event was an impressive united effort of painters, singers, rappers, poets, speakers, and organizations alike. From start to finish, audience members were exposed to both underground performers and steadily rising stars in the area. The vast majority of the musical performers fell into the category of hip-hop, bringing forward powerful lyricism as well as entertaining theatrics.
Along with goofy and enjoyable performances by Boston locals sprinkled throughout the night, talented artists such as Stereotype, Latrell James, Nick Gray, and Viva La Hop took the crowd by storm. UMass Boston’s own Allister Quilon also made a spectacular show, performing songs from his recently released album, “Sketches of Youth,” available for download on Spotify.
Equally important, however, were the brief speeches interwoven with the musical acts of the evening. In between each performance, five to ten minutes were devoted to a different pressing topic for communities today, such as pushing for improved transgender rights on our campus and addressing misconstrued depictions of Syrian refugees.
Blending prose with music in back-to-back segments was certainly a calculated move.
“Art is what brings us together and unifies us. Music is universal. We can all listen to music and enjoy it, but creating change in the social and political sphere is easier than it seems. All you need is a beat,” said Rohan Nijhawan, a UMass Boston student who served as the interim volunteer coordinator and head of the marketing team.
Painting was another art form celebrated at the event with the inclusion of a gallery, located in the back room of Snowden Auditorium. The gallery featured works by a number of artists, including artist Bernard Frantz. Art also came in the form of free organic henna, applied by UMass Boston student Ifrah Hashi. Suggested donations for her creations went to earthquake relief for Pakistan. The nation suffered after the natural disaster struck in October of this year.
Audience members could check out artwork and get henna tattoos at their leisure while munching away on free organic food, including popcorn that was tossed into the crowd during the performances.  
Unity Fest was a huge success, bringing along a crowd of 200 attendees – an astounding feat considering UMass Boston’s predominantly commuter population. The success of the event stemmed from the amount of work the hosts and creators put into it.
“We had about 15 volunteers helping us out. We had meetings regarding logistics almost every week leading up to the event,” said Nijhawan. “Honestly, I could not do my job without the volunteers. As head of marketing, I kept count of how many flyers we handed out. The number was between 8,000 and 10,000.”
Nijhawan and Guerrero both expressed gratitude to the many people involved in the project, including sponsors Net Impact, Slam Society, and Hip-Hop Initiative. Guerrero pointed out that the enthusiasm of not only the developers, but of the crowd as well, encapsulated the essence of “unity” in every sense of the word.