By Kevan Olsen
Charlottesville is known for being a thriving community, home to The University of Virginia and a colorful downtown. On August 12, the “Unite the Right” rally brought racism and violence to the forefront of national attention once again. The rally was formed due to the council planning on removing confederate-tied statues from the city, one of which depicting General Robert E. Lee. This prompted a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that quickly turned violent, with gunshots, a car running down protestors and hate speech chanted throughout the streets.
Shortly after the rally took place, it was announced that the Dave Matthews Band (who are from Charlottesville) would host “A Concert for Charlottesville, An Evening of Music and Unity.” Performing at this concert would include Virginia native Pharrell Williams, Justin Timberlake, Ariana Grande, Chris Stapleton, Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes, The Roots, Cage the Elephant and special guests Coldplay and Stevie Wonder.
The concert was free to the Charlottesville community. All who could secure admission were encouraged to donate to a relief cause that went to the first responders at the rally and the families of the 33 plus injured that day. The concert was hosted at the University of Virginia’s Scott Stadium on Sunday, September 24. Thousands of participants came out to celebrate music and unity, a coming together after the tragic events on the 12th a little over a month ago. The concert was also streamed live on YouTube, Tumblr and Facebook to reach as wide an audience as possible. The concert itself served as a message: one city can stand together against a hateful movement, and violence can be met with peace and unity. It also aimed to lift the dark shroud cast over the city and be a movement for change.
On stage, the Dave Matthews Band and other performers used music to unify the city and the country. Music filled the air all through the night as artists like Justin Timberlake brought down the house. Music was the inspiration for this event, featuring Soul, Country, Hip-Hop, Rock and Rhythm and Blues. There was no prejudice on stage or in the city. During the concert, Pharrell Williams “took a knee” for the city, for the country, to symbolize his devotion to bringing together a country divided.
The rally was a reminder that this country remains divided. Music brings us together in times of sorrow, but we are the ones who must want to create change. It is our responsibility to carry the message on, and live united.