With Texas leading the country in early voting turnout and Houston alone surpassing 700,000 early votes since voting began last week, it seems all of this year's turmoil has not been in vain.
Kam Franklin of The Suffers has partnered with HeadCount, a nonprofit promoting voter registration, and Musik Houston, an online publication created by Ky Meyer focusing on Houston’s music and arts community, to bring viewers an at-home festival serving as a virtual pep rally for the final days of this election season while representing a diverse lineup of artists from the Southern region.
Kam Franklin & Friends will take place on Tuesday, October 27, exactly one week before Election Day and three days before early voting ends in Texas. The live stream event is presented by Musik Houston and Homegirl Island, Franklin’s own creative production platform, and will feature more than 20 musical guests and poets.
A few of the featured performers include The Suffers, Fat Tony, Jackie Venson, Gio Chamba, Madeline Edwards, Nicole Atkins and Riders Against The Storm. During the live stream, viewers can scan a QR code providing them with information about their own status as voters, their nearest polling location and more relevant information for potential voters provided by HeadCount.
“I’m so grateful to present this variation of artists from all over the South,” says Franklin. “Every artist that is on here was handpicked by me and I’m so grateful for their participation and trust. I’m so grateful for Ky and all of her decisions. There's a lot of girl power going on in here.”
Meyer and Franklin met seven years ago when the Suffers appeared on Meyer segment of News Fix on the CW, “Tuned In With Ky Meyer .” Ironically, it took Meyer , originally from Washington State, to bring the only television program focused on local musicians to Houston airwaves.
Meyer explains how she was immediately drawn to and impressed by Houston’s enormous music scene and range of genres. Over the past ten years, she has immersed herself in all things Houston and has been driven to shed light on our city’s many creative strengths.
“This has been fun to come full circle now,” says Meyer . “I’m so proud that this is such a celebration of Southern, BIPOC artistry. Being able to bring together people from all over the region and having HeadCount attached to all of this, I feel like it’s powerful and that’s what it's all about.”
Franklin and Meyer know first hand what it is like to try to navigate in often male dominated fields and both have fought on the front lines within their industries to represent women and encourage others to do the same.
Meyer recalls reading Franklin’s initial draft of the lineup in awe of her ability to represent young, female artists of color who are often overlooked in the traditional festival circuits, as well as in the voting lines.
“It’s young, diverse artists that have such a big voice and impact and these are the people that we need to get out to the polls,” says Meyer .
Franklin also saw the benefits for the younger artists, who would typically be trying to book gigs or finish albums in Pre-COVID times.
“It’s a really discouraging time to be an artist right now, from the way that we are being treated by our government to just how hard it is to find support when everything that we know and love has been shut down and completely out of our control,” says Franklin.
Adding, “But I really do believe that we are going to re-emerge out of all of this stronger and together. I'm doing my best to lead by example in the best way I know how and that is through good old fashioned camaraderie and networking.”
Both Franklin and Meyer hope that their event can inspire others not only to vote and appreciate the artists, but to create the kind of community they hope to see for themselves in the world.
Franklin originally planned on organizing Kam Franklin & Friends as a live festival event to shine light not only independently and often under-represented artists, but also Houston as a whole. She and Meyer both share a sincere passion for uplifting and representing our music community.
“It is something that I will continue to build upon,” says Franklin of her original vision, seeing this year's event as “A proposal for something bigger because this is something that we created with just two women and a dream.”
“I do believe that music communities are created and they have to be nurtured by the people within them,” says Franklin.
Giving people the final nudge into their decision to go out and vote and reminding viewers of the power of each single vote is a major aspect of Kam Franklin & Friends and part of Franklin’s mission as a board member at HeadCount.
“I’m going to encourage you to vote. I'm going to give you all the options. I'm not going to shame you if you feel as though that's not for you. I’m going to keep it moving and I’m going to keep trying anytime it comes up because that's all we can do is continue to try and continue to look at our past mistakes and grow from them so we can just keep it moving,” says Franklin.
Meyer echoes a similar sentiment saying, “At the end of the day, it's crazy to see how split the nation is with everything that's going on but if there's ever a time to get fired up and feel like you need to get involved and that your voice and your vote matters, it’s now and I feel so blessed to be in Houston of all places of all the cities in the whole nation.”
Kam Franklin & Friends will stream Tuesday, October 27 at 7:00 pm CST. For a full line up and to RSVP to the event, visit Music Houston and to explore the participating artists check out Franklin’s curated Spotify playlist.
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