319 Music Festival returns for third year


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Local rap artist Marques Brooks is passionate about using music to inspire teenagers on the Southeast Side to succeed.

The musician, better known as Marq Divine, will sing his song "Children" at the 319 Music Festival. Divine said the song discusses a string of incidents involving teenagers fighting at the Old Capitol Town Center bus stop near the end of the school day that lead to increased police presence over the last few months.

"It's one of my best songs because it's truthful, and everything in there has happened," Marq Divine said. "It talks about how the police responded to the kids, and it's an explanation of if you go down a bad road, what can happen."

He, along with other local musicians, will perform at the 319 Festival at 11 a.m. Saturday at Wetherby Park. Admission is free.

AmeriCorps and the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County joined to create the event to change stereotypes of the Southeast Side and provide a community event that is family-friendly and inclusive to the 319 area code as a whole.

Marq Divine said he performed at a block party for the Broadway Center once before; he loves to do events for the kids in the neighborhood.

"I have children myself, and I definitely want to inspire these kids to do something different rather than getting in trouble," he said.

The rapper speaks at student panels to kids in low-income communities in southeastern Iowa to inspire them to stay in school and get good grades. So far, he said, he has gotten a positive response, and he hopes to have the same effect on the kids at the 319 Festival.

"[The festival] is a part of history that is going to keep on going every year,"a Marq Divine said. "I want to be a good representative in the community from the beginning."

The festival started in response to the negative press about Iowa City's Southeast Side.

UI senior Jade Howser, a social-work intern at the Broadway Center and a member of the organizing committee for the festival, said, "The goal of the festival is to change the perceptions of the neighborhood and to focus on the positive things that come out of the area. There is a huge range of services and different community groups that come out of the centers."

She was first a part of the festival last year with a student-work association who helped to sponsor the festival.

Howser, who works with many of the children and families who plan to attend the festival, said they are "excited to be a part of the community."

"The students in the neighborhood tend to be marginalized," she said. "It is because of this that we wanted to have an event where the Southeast Side could be a part of the Iowa City community by hosting something on their own turf."

A new aspect to the festival this year is a carnival called Kid Zone, which will provide such items as bingo, candy walk, and a bouncy house for the younger children in the community.

The kids involved in the Youth Leadership Council at the Broadway Center raised around $1,000 to make this addition possible for their community.

City High freshman Daysha Jurgens, who joined the Youth Leadership Council this year because she wanted to be involved with something in her community, said the group raised more than $50 in only 15 minutes by hosting a bake sale at their school for this event. She said she enjoys being a part of the festival.

"I think I'll be involved throughout high school, because it's giving me something to be involved in," she said. "It was also a chance to meet new people, because I'm a shy person."

Howser is looking forward to the all-day festival and hopes the weather is cooperative this year.

"I want to see how the festival has grown from last year and to see the families that I work with out and about in the community," she said.

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