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Mad Lit Event concert series aims to “bring people together and embrace community” in downtown Madison


The Mad Lit Event Series, a new free concert series that will feature live music and highlight local artists and businesses of color, will take place every other Friday starting July 2 and running through Oct. 8 on the 100 block of State Street in downtown Madison. 

“The idea for Mad Lit really came during the time of COVID and the protests that were happening at the Capitol,” says Rob “Dz” Franklin, a local hip-hop artist, the Media Projects Bubblerarian for the Madison Public Library, and one of the coordinators of the Mad Lit Event Series. “I was talking with one of the owners of one of the restaurants and the conversation started as, ‘You know what this street needs: more lights.’ And that’s really how the whole thing kind of evolved.”

The series will run from 8-11 p.m. and include pop-up shops, visual exhibits, and community-led workshops. Franklin and his team are doing work to diversify downtown Madison. As a current resident of downtown, he understands and experiences the racism and exclusion that occur as a person of color. 

“It’s disheartening to see the tourists look at you skeptically and little microaggressions and things like that,” said Franklin. “And for me, it was just kind of important. It was like ‘okay, man, eventually all these murals are going to come down.’ I immediately started thinking how is downtown going to look going forward from this.”

Natty Nation
(Photo supplied)

Artists performing at the event will include Sammy + J. Vocal with Crown Vic, Orquesta Salsol Del Mad, Natty Nation, The Adem Tesfaye Band with Zander Anim, Rey Cruz with Almighty from the 8, and Supa Friends with Marcus Porter. Music will be provided by D.J. Ace, D.J. Chamo, D.J. Phil Money, D.J. M. White, D.J. Fusion, D.J. Pain, and D.J. Flaco. These are just a few of the many artists that will be highlighted and perform during the series. There will also be a spoken word and comedy showcase, along with a Block Party on Sept. 10. 

 “Traditionally, a lot of artists of color don’t get a lot of good looks on stages in Madison,” said Franklin. “And I’m just being honest. For artists of color, you’re not in that certain mainstream loop, you really aren’t getting the looks. And for me, it was kind of like, how can we find a way to really tap into that and really find these lanes? Between the combination of the lights and the idea of ‘let’s do something downtown,’ I really wanted to try to come up and create something that would be able to provide the opportunity for the inclusiveness to continue.”

This event series is intended to bring people together, embrace community and have fun in downtown Madison. Franklin wants this event to showcase talented people of color in Wisconsin and provide opportunities to business owners who may been affected financially during the pandemic. 

The Adem Tesfaye Band
(Photo supplied)

“We’re trying to make a point of including as many folks of color in this process. This is all local. We only have one act that is not from Madison, but they’re from Beloit, by way of Milwaukee. They’re in the state, they’re in the area. The second thing is the intent to have as much representation of color downtown as possible.

“The third thing I would say to that is that people have been in the house the last year and a half. It’s about people that are from this city in this place. Come down and be supportive and take care of these people. Whether it’s the lady that’s selling perfume and oil or the homie that draws paintings. These are people from our community, so let’s support them,” he added.

Franklin acknowledged that this event series is a community effort. He thanked Urban Triage’s Brandi Grayson and Synergy’s Eugenia Podesta, specifically, for their support in finding artists of color. 

Sponsors for this event include Urban Community Arts Network (UCAN), The City of Madison, American Family Insurance, Madison Arts Commission, Dane Arts, Madison Central BID, Great Dane Brewery, 107State, Downtown Madison Inc, UJAMAA Business Network, Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, All of Us Research Program, Destination Madison, and Greater Madison Music City.


To find more information about the Mad Lit Event Series, click here.