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BAMS Festival is live again

One-day festival will bring local and national acts to Franklin Park

Scott Haas
BAMS Festival is live again
Festival goers enjoy a performance at BAMS Festival in 2019. PHOTO: MAYA RAFIE

BAMS (Boston Arts and Music Soul Festival) returns with live venues on June 11 at Playstead Field in Franklin Park. Canceled in 2020 due to COVID and virtual in 2021 for the same reason, this year begins a new era of performance and community fueled by music, art and local businesses.

Catherine Morris, the founder and artistic director of BAMS, tells the Banner, “BAMS is one of the only and largest multi-generational, cultural Black and brown festivals in the country where we can celebrate Black and brown entrepreneurship.”

Catherine Morris, BAMS Festival founder
and artistic director. PHOTO: CAROLINE ALDEN

The one-day festival, which started in 2018, will have activities this year starting at noon and a final act that begins at 7:20 p.m. The day’s activities include the Beat Feet Dance Pavilion, Live Art & Graffiti, a Vendor Village, and two stages where music will be performed by 19 acts, with 15 of them local and four national.

Performers on Stage A are Nubella Honey, Duncan Daniels, Naomi Westwater, Paul Willis, Chelsey Green, Zili Misik, Jazzmyn RED, Sympli Whitney, SeeFour, and SWV.

On Stage B, you’ll find Jonathan Suazo, iamchelseaiam, Martin Guas, Miranda Rae, Tolieth, Black Alley Band, Phoenixx, Other than Boston, and D Smoke.   

Stages will be hosted by Corey Manning with DJ SavSoul and DJ Slick Vick.

In addition to being spectators, guests at the Festival can participate by getting on the dance floor with an opportunity to learn Afro-diasporic styles from leading local choreographers of color. The Festival encourages everyone to join in, with no experience required.

“The festival is all-inclusive,” Morris says, “and it amplifies undervalued and underrepresented vendors and artists. It’s an effort to stage an ecosystem, and the journey that I’m on intersects with other industries.”

Franklin Park’s location is fundamental to the festival itself. The beauty and history of the park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (who was also the landscape architect behind the creation of Central Park in NYC and the series of public parks known as the Emerald Necklace in Boston), add to the cultural experience.

“Franklin Park is and has been historically the epicenter of cultural arts in the Black and brown communities of Boston for a long time,” Morris says. “Elma Lewis established the Playhouse in the Park here, which was where many great artists performed. Holding BAMS here connects me to history that is bigger than myself.”

Along with the music, dance and arts, BAMS features a Vendor Village, open from 12 to 6 p.m., which will have over 30 Black- and brown-owned businesses featuring products and services from home goods and health to art, clothing and spices.

“We partnered with Jae’da Turner, who runs Black Owned Bos., who will curate the small businesses that are part of this,” says Morris.

BAMS is a free event, explains Morris, and she says that people can “claim their patch of grass, bring lawn chairs and a cooler,” and enjoy a lively day in the park. (No alcohol is permitted in the park.)

As far as how to get there, the best bet is public transportation. According to the BAMS website, the closest Orange Line stop is Green Street, and the #16 bus runs between the Andrew T stop on the Red Line and Forest Hills Station on the Orange Line and stops at the main park entrance on Blue Hill Avenue. Other buses go around the perimeter of the park, coming from different directions: #31, #14, #29, #42, and #44. 

Or, walk or ride a bicycle over. The BAMS website emphasizes: “There will NO parking available adjacent to the Playstead at the Giraffe Entrance to the Franklin Park Zoo.”

“I went to college in Philadelphia and saw there that we can make events like BAMS possible in Boston,” says Morris. “We’re all very excited about finally being back live.”