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Making a name for yourself as an artist and enlisting the support of your community and family all while working a regular job to pay the bills can be a bit of a struggle, said local singer and freelance photographer Rashaad McNeil.
“You have to see your greatness before anyone else. You see it and God sees it, but bringing that out and sharing it with the world is a journey,” McNeil said.
McNeil, a lifelong Wilson resident, said like many other artists, he was frustrated by the lack of opportunities to showcase the musical talents that abound in the area. However, instead of moving to a larger area, he decided to create that opportunity here for himself and others.
“I wanted to create a platform where we could all come together,” McNeil said. “I have supporters. They have supporters. Let’s put everyone under one roof and just boost ourselves up. Unfortunately, as a community, we don’t really support people until they’ve ‘made it.’ There’s so many great, talented people around here, and no one really sees it until after the hard work and you’ve gotten the fruits of your labor. I’m trying to teach people to see those diamonds in the rough.”
The Move-N-Groove Music Festival, which will be held in July, was an idea that stirred in McNeil’s mind for several years before finally taking shape within the past year. He said taking on the role of event producer has been a challenging but worthwhile experience.
“People say you’ve got to get out of Wilson. You’re not going to make it if you’re in a small town. But it’s OK to be a big fish in a small pond and to celebrate other fish in that pond,” McNeil said. “I started building it as a dream, putting it down on paper, then looking at the details and financially preparing for it and just making sure I went about it the right way.”
McNeil said as excited as he is to perform his original music to a live audience for the first time, he also is thrilled to introduce new artists to the Wilson community.
“I used to sit in my room and listen to Mariah Carey and Brian McKnight and study how they would write. I always had songs in my head, and over time, I got better. I had to learn, and that’s why I like keeping footage of past things, the good and the bad, because it shows me the dynamics of how I’ve grown,” McNeil said. “
Other artists scheduled to perform are Ashlee Altise, Jadah Pearl, Jeff Robinson, Justin Cabarrus and Dottie Elliot. Altise and Pearl are from Wilson, and the others grew up in the surrounding area.
“A lot of these people I just noticed were on their grind. Last year, I would go to shows and almost secretly talent scout. I know the struggle of being an independent artist, operating a normal life while pursuing your dreams. I see them doing that and wanted to give them a platform and let that be an inspiration to other people.”
The Move-N-Groove Festival will take place at Saturday, July 27 at the Boykin Center in Wilson. Doors open at 6 p.m,. and the show begins at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased online through Eventbrite or via CashApp at $MNGfest. For more information, email Jocelyn Drawhorn at firstname.lastname@example.org.