Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Carolina Union Hosts First-Ever Virtual Jubilee, Headlined by Black Women

Ruth Samuel | September 23, 2020 | Story #4 for MEJO 253

Carolina Union Hosts First-Ever Virtual Jubilee, Headlined by Black Women

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- On Saturday, the Carolina Union Activities Board at UNC-Chapel Hill hosted its first-ever virtual Jubilee concert due to COVID-19, featuring the first Black, female performers selected in Jubilee’s history. 

Though headliners Rico Nasty and DaniLeigh were to be revealed in March, the pandemic pushed back the announcement, the original April 18 concert date, and forced CUAB to find a new medium altogether. 

The announcement for headliners Rico Nasty and DaniLeigh was pushed back from March and the original April 18 concert date due to the coronavirus pandemic forcing CUAB to find a new medium altogether. 

“I came into my role in CUAB wanting to either have women for Jubilee or for the [homecoming] comedy show, but I really didn't think that I would get to,” said senior sociology major Veronica Joseph, CUAB’s 2019-2020 entertainment co-chair.

Rico Nasty (left) and DaniLeigh (right) pictured above, image courtesy of  Carolina Union Activities Board

Since 1963, Jubilee has been a tradition at UNC-Chapel Hill, marking the end of the spring semester with a concert. The show has gone on, rain or shine, with recent artists such as 2 Chainz, Waka Flocka Flame, and last year, 6lack in Carmichael Arena. Joseph said she initially thought COVID-19 would only delay the reveal, but once campus shut down, everything changed. 

“As things progressed and it seemed like the world was turning back on, more artists were beginning to do virtual shows. We were presented with that option, then it was about timing,” said Joseph, who now serves as the co-vice president of programming. 

Following the homecoming comedy show, the Jubilee artist search starts as early as November. CUAB graduate assistant Nyla Ruiz disseminated surveys to students via mailing lists, asking them to share which artists they’d like to perform and from which genre. This past year, over 3,000 responses were received. 

“We get those questionnaires back and out of 300 people who respond to it, 200, if not a little more, are going to say they want a rap or hip-hop rap artist,” said current Entertainment Co-Chair Lionel Means. “You might have a little under 100 saying pop, then those stragglers who want rock, indie, or something else.” 

Jubilee 2019 attracted over 3,000 attendees to watch 6lack in Carmichael, with students paying $15 for the highest level and $25 for floor access. Ticket prices vary depending upon the artist and offset the cost of bringing the performer to campus. 

With help of virtual event production company Impulse Creative, the live stream format lowered the prices enough to host Jubilee 2020 for free, ultimately allowing alumni to watch on HeelLife. Class of 2020 graduate and former communications student Reana Johnson was one of over 160 people in attendance on Saturday night, and this was her first Jubilee experience. 

“I'd rate it like a seven and a half or eight because it was cool!” 21-year-old Johnson said. “Rico Nasty’s background was her home and it did make you feel like you were there, but I was looking around a lot in the background. The energy wasn't the same, but for what [CUAB was] able to do, it was good.”

Additionally, Jubilee 2020’s virtual setting offered more accessibility to students. While Johnson tuned in from Texas, Cameron Gonz├ílez-Gibbs streamed the concert from her home in Durham. She was unable to participate in the virtual chat room while watching on her phone, but still enjoyed the concert experience. 

“CUAB organized it so well, to the point that the website never crashed. There were no sound errors or malfunctions,” said Gonz├ílez-Gibbs. “I do like that being online, everyone has the same view. You don't have to worry about like, ‘Oh, I want to squeeze to the front,’ because we all see the same person so that's really nice.” 

Due to a family baby shower, she was not able to watch 6lack perform last year. However, the senior psychology major said she hopes that if the concert returns to an in-person format, an additional live stream will be offered. As CUAB charters a new path and sets a precedent for the future, Jubilee remains steeped in tradition. 

“I think Jubilee has slowly evolved into something where Black UNC would consider it a staple event, considering the artists and how rap is the most popular thing right now,” Johnson said. “It was always a good way to kick off finishing the year and a precursor to LDOC, which is practically a Black UNC holiday.”

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