Hundreds of people filled the Convocation Center on Sept. 19 for the inaugural NVRCH Music Festival. The festival was held in honor of Jayquon Tillman, an Eastern Michigan University student who was shot and killed at a party on May 6, 2017.
$3 from every ticket purchased went toward a memorial scholarship fund in Tillman’s name.
The festival, which had both an outdoor and indoor stage, featured 19 hip hop artists including Neisha Neshae and Polo Frost. Lil Baby, whose song “Drip Too Hard” peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2018, was the headliner for the event.
Honoré Washington and Clarence Taylor founded the festival as a way to honor Tillman, who they met during their freshman year of college. Washington said the goal of the event is to raise awareness to the life-long effects of gun violence.
"What we are trying to do is show the effects of gun violence and who you’re hurting when you pull that gun out,” Washington said. “You have hurt his family who now don’t have their son, their brother, their grandchild. You hurt us who are his friends and classmates … We want to show an impact to people on what it is like to lose somebody to gun violence.”
The festivals name, NVRCH (pronounced never rich), was a saying that Tillman lived by.
“It was something he heard in a song and found a new meaning to it,” Washington said. “Just emphasizing the fact that there’s so much that we have to do to be successful, there’s so many heights that we have to climb in order for us to make sure that we become [what we want to be]. Without our hard work and determination, we’ll never be rich.”
Anthony Strickland and Da’shonte Riley, who were on the basketball team at EMU from 2011 to 2014, formed their group ASDR after graduating college. On Sept. 19 they returned to the Convocation Center to perform as the opening act for Lil Baby.
“I feel like I got a game to play,” Strickland said before the show. “It’s the same type of nerves. I hope when the lights come on and they say my name it’s kind of like throwing a ball up and I’m kind of like, ‘Alright, I know what I’m doing.’”
Strickland said being back in the Convocation Center brought back a lot of memories. However, being able to perform for such a meaningful cause is something he will never forget.
“It’s nostalgic just walking through and seeing it alive again with the lights on,” Strickland said. “It’s also meaningful because I grew up out here. Gun violence is something that’s real, it’s an actual issue.”
Desmine Robinson, a senior at EMU, was a friend of Tillman’s. They met through a program that empowers young men of color called My Brother’s Keeper.
Robinson said it means a lot to have this event being held in his friends honor.
“It shows that people aren’t forgetting what happened to him,” he said. “It also emphasizes how important he is to us … for this to be happening, it shows that we’re still feeling his absence.
“He was a very good young man, very intelligent, very big heart. He loved his community, he loved his people and if he was here today he’d be doing great things.”