Sun, May

L.A. Phil’s Power to the People Festival March 5 through April 11


The festival will take place March 5 through April 11 at the Walt Disney Concert Hall and California African American Museum.

By Megan Reed

Entertainers have used their platform to speak out about political and social issues and injustices.  The most impactful movements in this nation and from around the world have been accompanied by lyrics that highlighted the displeasure of many people who felt that they were suffering from various types of oppression.

Along with political movement came political slogans, with “Power to the People” being one of the most prominent.

“‘Power to the People’ has a place in the history of protest as a slogan written on placards and chanted in the streets,” said jazz legend Herbie Hancock, creative chair for jazz at the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  “But its sentiments of solidarity in the humanitarian spirit have been immortalized in music.”

Hancock and LA Phil’s Music and Artistic Director Gustavo Dudamel will bring together musicians, artists and activists representing a variety of musical traditions and social movements for Power to the People!, a festival about finding your voice and using it.

“Gustavo and I are gathering together composers, musicians, and poets who are carrying the torch for a wide variety of communities,” Hancock said.  “These are artist who help us understand one another; who fight for the rights of all people to be treated as equals.  It’s a celebration not only of great music, but of people who teach us how to find our voice and how to use theirs to preserve the dignity and rights of all.”

The series of events will feature Hancock, gospel artist Yolanda Adams, jazz legend Terence Blanchard, hip-hop icon Rakim, political scholar Dr. Angela Davis, and many others.

“People will be in direct conversation and they will be able to hear these artists/activists speak about how they spoke truth to power or how they democratize power at all levels,” said Tyree Boyd-Pates, co-curator of the festival.

Politics influences music and vice versa as the two have always gone hand in hand.

“You had Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the cause for desegregation and integration,” Boyd-Pates said.  “While he had the support of countless folks for the Civil Rights Movement, you can’t divorce the Cilvil Rights Movement from all of the artists/activists that were participating.  Like James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, and countless others.  They are a part of a large legacy of artists/activists who spoke truth to power.  As we stand on the precipice of an election year, you have artists who are still speaking truth to power today by using their platform.”

While political and social issues can be complex, music and slogans can convey impactful thoughts to large groups of people in a way that everybody can understand.

“It’s a tool to getting messages across to masses who can understand songs as well as they can understand slogans, such as ‘Power to the People,’ or ‘Black Power,’ or ‘Black is Beautiful,’” Boyd-Pates said.  

Hancock with Dudamel will open the festival on March 5 with a performance at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown.  


March 7, the California African American Museum (CAAM) will host a free concert featuring vocalist and composer Imani Uzuri and the Revolutionary Choir.  The night will feature a freedom and protest song teach-in of historical and new songs of resistance and resilience.  All voices are welcome to learn and sing liberation songs.  This free event will also take place at Walt Disney Concert Hall’s BP Hall on March 8.


March 8, Walt Disney Concert Hall, The "Queen of Contemporary Gospel" Yolanda Adams joins Dudamel and the LA Phil to give a performance that pays homage to the role of the church as a place that helps young artists find their voices, organizes and supports social justice movements, and offers hope through music.

March 10, CAAM, Wesley Morris, a New York Times critic-at-large speaks to the intersection of black music, fashion, and gender identity in the 1990s.  This event is free to attend.

March 11, CAAM, Sweat the Technique, the Politics and Poetics of Hip-Hop.  This free event features a panel discussion on hip-hop and social activism featuring legendary rapper Rakim.

Jazz legend Terence Blanchard will perform music from Spike Lee’s classic Films.

March 12, CAAM, jazz legend Terence Blanchard discusses his legendary career and nearly three decades-long collaboration with director Spike Lee.  This event is free.

March 14, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Blanchard will perform music from Spike Lee’s classic films.


March 15, Walt Disney Concert Hall, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant presents her most ambition project yet .

March 18, Walt Disney Concert Hall, scholar and icon Dr. Angela Davis offers a cultural perspective on the role art has played in social justice movements and its potential to affect change today.

Scholar and icon Dr. Angela Davis.

March 21, Walt Disney Concert Hall, cellist Seth Parker Woods and composer Spencer Topel will pay tribute to an avant-garde past while reflecting on the black bodies lost to mental illness and violence in the African American community.  This event is free.  

March 24, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the 80-minute staged oratorio “Places” explores the contentious mapping of the spaces we call home.  The performance takes places in a country at a crossroads, where the legacy of Manifest Destiny has given rise to the complexities of gentrification.  

April 4 and 11, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Toyota Symphonies for the Youth concert features the Los Angeles Philharmonic and is recommended for children ages 5 to 11.  

To purchase tickets, visit www.laphil.com and follow them on social media.