Music alumna Chelsea Karpeh ’18 started to brainstorm right after fellow alumnus Malik Johnson ’19 approached her with the idea of putting on a “Be the Change” livestream benefit concert to address social justice for African Americans.
“It all began when Malik texted me about Campaign Zero asking if I’ve heard of them,” she said. “He wanted to get a bunch of musicians together for a livestream concert and give the donations to the organization. He asked if I wanted to be a part of it, and I was all in.”
Karpeh immediately reached out to Blumenthal Performing Arts chief executive Tom Gabbard, who had written an email to company employees addressing the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police in Minneapolis on May 25.
A clarinetist, Karpeh also works in customer service for Blumenthal.
“I told him what Malik and I were planning and if Blumenthal would be open to helping us put everything together,” she said. “He emailed me back that same day saying how he’d be honored to support us and put me in touch with programming and marketing, and it took off from there.”
It led to the recording of the “Be the Change” concert at McGlohon Theater, featuring dance, music and other performances. They also enlisted spoken word artist Boris “Bluz” Rogers ’06 and other performers.
The "Be the Change" benefit concert aired on Blumenthal’s YouTube channel on July 10, encouraging supporters to donate to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP and Campaign Zero.
“I think a concert with this sort of program can produce different messages for various people, the one I had in mind was hope,” Karpeh said. “Hope for change, for a better community and a better future.”
She credits Johnson, a violinist, with originating the idea.
“Malik was definitely the pioneer for this project,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him asking me to be a part of his idea then none of this would’ve happened.”
For his part, Johnson said the motivation for creating this concert was the need to create unity while promoting awareness of social injustice and police brutality.
“It’s important to me because I grew up having talks about it with my parents, and the older I get, the more I see that things aren’t right,” he said. “I’m thankful that it’s an outlook on life that everyone doesn’t have to experience, but I feel that its existence should be acknowledged by everyone. Once this happens, we can all start moving forward and breaking these shackles as a single force.”
Rogers said he was honored to be part of the performance and lend his voice.
“It was very necessary and right on time,” he said. “It helps with the healing and growth of our communities.”
Photo: Tamar Rowe, Danielle Dameron, Malik Johnson (front), Bryan Patterson (back) and Chelsea Karpeh were among the performers for ‘Be the Change.’