Manifesto celebrates its 15th anniversary with headliners J.I.D, Savanah Re, Notifi, Charmaine, Jahkoy, DJ Killa Kels, and many others. The day-long festival shares the sounds of the city with Hip Hop, RnB, and Latin music, Saturday.

Preparing for this year’s festival was so much fun,” says Tanisha Richards, the Director of Operations and Partnerships.

“We knew that we had no choice but to make it a BIG DEAL! Not only because we were celebrating 15 years, but because after being deprived of live music for what feels like an eternity, we had to make sure we did our city proudly.

The community-driven festival is designed to unite young people through art and culture while showcasing emerging talent. Throughout the processes, they hope to inspire and empower youth.

Finding the balance of staying true to the Manifesto’s DNA while also listening to the youth’s feedback has helped them move into this new era, according to Richards.

“(It) was a difficult feat, but we made it out the end. I am so excited for what is to come; this wasn’t even the icing on the cake,” she says.

With a centring theme of community and evolution Manifesto continues to be a space to bring together creatives.

“It’s just like a good culture hub. If you were to take all the culture of Toronto and especially, Black communities, they just (…) consolidate it and explodes it back out into the community,” two-time volunteer Amira Cowell says.

With musical talent from across Ontario, the performers captivated the audience and assuaged them by the enjoyment of being outside for live music once again. 

“It’s a blessing to see everything coming back little by little,” former Manifesto host Sashagia says.

It has been over a year since the Manifesto Festival has been live. The festival went virtual during 2020 due to the concerns of the pandemic. Since then, the Manifesto team lead by Richards, Kat Torres, Shanice Wilson and Hidaya Hagi have been diligently working to get the showcase back on its feet.

“Covid-19 was doing its best not to make this year’s festival happen,” Richards says in her second year at Manifesto. 

“From the insane travel restrictions, low outdoor capacity limits, 3rd wave lockdown scares and even the whole team getting sick weeks before the festival, thankfully it wasn’t covid, It definitely made it very challenging. We had to have backup plans a-z just in case covid tried to through something new at us. But in the end, we made it happen, covid and all.”

The POC women-led team made manifesto history by being the first female trio to direct Manifesto, according to Richards. Their efforts to elevate the festival were noticed especially by Sashagia, an Ontario-raised entrepreneur.

“As I was approaching Manifesto, I saw this huge stage in the distance, and I screamed,” she says. “I was like, ‘yes for elevation; yes, for growth.’ I love that there’s a huge stage for all the artists because they’re hard-working, they’re friggin talented, and they deserve a stage like this.”

The showcase continues to be a blossoming spot for performers. Neo-Soul and Jazz artist VaNess, says that being a part of the Manifesto community has given her access to a network that has helped launch her career.

“When I just came back to Toronto [in 2018], it was my first time coming out as an artist, and Manifesto provided events, platforms, opportunities to meet all kinds of people. And to be able to come back and see those familiar faces is a good feeling.”

The Congolese and Rwandese artist performed on the Manifesto stage – creating a full-circle moment.

“It’s kind of surreal, but still super fun,” she says.

For 11:11, an RnB artist, performing on the Manifesto stage has been a milestone he has been hoping to achieve for a while.

“Manifesto is a big thing for me. I’ve always wanted to get on Manifesto and perform, (and) believe it or not, I’ve tried to get on it for years now. It just never worked out,” the singer-songwriter and music producer, says.

“(…) throughout the years, I tried to manifest it. Now I’m here. I am at Manifesto – manifested what I wanted to do.”

As many audience members enjoyed the artist selection, others were oozing gratitude for being back at an in-person event.

Roberts shares that it’s amazing being able to dance with others to the songs that she’s been dancing to alone in her room for over a year.

From first-timers to returners such as Roberts, many were proud to celebrate the talent sprouting from Toronto.

“The City of Toronto is so diverse. We have so much talent in all different angles and aspects. And I think [Manifesto] such an amazing event really showcase, what the city means and how much we have to offer and kind of show the world Toronto’s here; Toronto’s up next,” Roberts says.

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