KEXP Suggests: Vera on Your Block at the Vera Project (5/15-18)

KEXP Suggests
Zach Frimmel

One of Seattle’s most salient social influencers is the youth community and coalition of nonprofitteers at The Vera Project. They just successfully met their GiveBIG fundraiser goal that spotlighted youth-uprising programs like their upcoming VERA On Your Block Week, which takes place Wednesday, May 15 through Saturday, May 18. At the heart of Vera’s social influence is a subversive, blood-pumping ethos that community in action creates change. VERA On Your Block Week puts this ethos into practice as it is jam packed with direct response, direct action, and direct effect. 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which ties in with KEXP’s upcoming Music Heals: Addiction & Recovery, so a strong focus of VERA On Your Block deals directly with mental health issues affecting people around the world, especially youth today. 

We caught up with VERA to drill down a bit on what we can expect this coming week. 

KEXP: What were some of the initial sparks for creating the Vera On Your Block series? 

VERA: The Vera Project was founded in 2001 on principles of grassroots community organizing to bring all-ages music back to Seattle, foster an intergenerational community for folx to explore their creative passions, and promote equity and inclusion by amplifying powerful young voices. Eighteen years in, our mission is still more vital than ever, so we're harking back to our radical roots and building upon our organizational legacy to offer more opportunity to more people in more places. As income inequality grows, gentrification leads to further displacement, and a public focus on the arts fades, we need to be doing everything we possibly can to reach our most marginalized communities and support the leaders of tomorrow.  

Could you share a little about how each event was curated and how it fits into the overarching story of the series?

VERA On Your Block meets people where they are by intertwining youth-led direct outreach and activist work with educational workshops and community-curated shows in partnered off-site spaces.  By hosting citywide benefit shows for vital community organizations, collaborating on powerful youth-focused organizing & advocacy efforts, and offering skill sharing opportunities in unconventional spaces, VERA will better serve the communities outside of the city center in which marginalized young folx live and learn.  

What's The Fusion Cafe and what can we look forward to for that event?

VERA Presents: The Fusion Cafe is our first official benefit concert series for VERA On Your Block!  Fusion shows will happen on a monthly basis at the Downtown YMCA to benefit their young adults in transition program.  Soon, we'll also be hosting monthly DIY benefit shows at other unconventional spaces citywide to provide more opportunities for young musicians to play,  create more volunteer & work positions to bolster our creative economy, and lift up vital local nonprofits and activist groups.  

Friday’s Neurodiversity Nights is a new monthly rotation? Tell us more about that. 

Neurodiversity Nights is a new event series that we're particularly excited to kick-off, as it will create a more accessible and inclusive space for members of our neurodiverse communities to explore creative passions, connect with valuable nonprofit services, and get engaged in advocacy efforts.  Each monthly show will center around sensory-friendly live performances with lower sound, accessible lighting, and more open space to move around and feel safe. Every aspect of these events will be largely put on by and for young folx in our neurodiverse communities, including job shadowing opportunities, curated musicians and guest speakers, open-mics for participants, tabling from local service-based nonprofits, and even more.  All performers, organizers, and partners, including Jason & Al, are and will continue to be well versed in the needs of our audiences and have a deep understanding of how to maintain a sensory-friendly environment.  

No Place Fest seems like it's going to be twelve hours of hellraising! What are some pro-tips on how to pace ourselves? 

With hardcore, punk, hip-hop, and brass bands, radical panels and workshops, subversive & hands-on art demos, and so much more, there is truly No Place like VERA this Saturday!  We'll be raising some hell for sure, but we've also got a heavy focus on mindfulness, inclusion, and community, so everyone can experience it all at their own pace.  You could start off the day with ambient yoga, help Amplifier wheatpaste the Key Arena soundwall with social justice art, join the conversation at our Direct Action in Democracy panel, and then take some time off to prepare yourself to be blown away by headliners like Downtown Boys & RA Scion; OR, go hard from Noon to Midnight and see every single thing that VERA and the rad folx that came together for this eclectic grassroots fest have to offer.  Like always at VERA, you can choose your own adventure and explore creative passions on your own terms.

Don’t miss out! VERA On Your Block will be four, jam-packed days focusing on benefit concerts, marginalized communities, and youth-focused activism. There are still tickets for each event on The Vera Project’s website here