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This week The JVN Project will be hosting their 5th annual JVN Day Festival. Unlike recent years, this year’s festival will be September 8th-10th, allowing students back from summer break to indulge in a weekend full of arts and community.

The JVN Project is a collective that uses Hip-Hop as a tool of empowerment. The project aims to continue on the life work of John “Vietnam” Nguyen. Nguyen was a Chicago native and UW-Madison sophomore who died in an apparent drowning in Madison on Aug. 30, 2012. Nguyen is survived by his music, poetry, activism and those inspired by his life.

“He was committed to making people feel loved, heard and encouraged. His efforts to do that were tremendous enough to change lives drastically within the cohort that he came in with; in the UW-Madison community; in the Madison community and then Chicago. There were murals that went up for him in France and the UK. He had an extremely impactful life in such a short time,” said Zhalarina Sanders, the executive director of The JVN Project, “we aren’t an organization, we’re a legacy.”

To honor Nguyen’s life and legacy, The JVN Day Festival will provide programming that “continues the work he already started.” For the very first time, this year’s festival will be stretched to a three-day event. To kick off the weekend of events, there will be a Sunrise Open Mic bright and early at 8 a.m.

“John was all about high productivity and being maximally efficient – which meant for him that he never slept, but as an artist, it meant he was constantly trying to create new work and put new work into the world,” Sanders shared. “So, the Sunrise Open Mic is tailored to new work to encourage artists to bring out those 1st and 2nd drafts of something.”

This year’s Gatekeeper’s Popup Shop and Awards Ceremony will be Friday, Sept. 8th. The awards ceremony will have three awards: The Gatekeeper Award, The Alchemist Award, and The Catalyst Award. This year’s awards will celebrate adults, youth and organizations.

“The point is to celebrate and honor people in our communities that have used their resources and platforms to uplift others, especially marginalized or disenfranchised others,” said Sanders.

“On Saturday, there will be Elements in the Park, it’s like Hip-Hop everywhere. It’s almost like a block party,” said Tiffany Ike, The JVN Project’s outreach and development director, “Basically, all the elements will be around the park.”

Activities will include a rap battle, break dancing and plenty of games. Artists Dequadray White and Melana Bass will be creating a mural throughout the duration of the event.

From a pajama movie night to a Hip-Hop concert at the terrace, the weekend will be full of an array of events that intend to foster community and celebrate Hip-Hop culture.

Written by Kynala Phillips

Kynala Phillips

“I’m a blk girl enthusiast whose pronouns are she, her, hers and queen.”

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