In the familiar story of how good conversations begin, Todd Carmichael recently found himself around a dinner table in the middle of a stimulating discussion about race in America, the trajectory of the #MeToo movement, and the abhorrent voter turnout rate in Philadelphia.
But the CEO of La Colombe wasn’t clinking whiskeys with Philly’s top civic leaders, or rubbing elbows with business execs. Instead, he was digging into the nuances of the current political climate with a smaller (though no less important) crowd—his four kids, ages 7 to 16, at home, before they were excused from the table to start their homework.
Carmichael, who draws inspiration from his wife and kids, wanted to take the conversations that come so easily to his family of six, from adoption—his four kids being adopted from Ethiopia—to sexism to gun control, and find a way to stretch it across the city, to make it not so scary, and maybe even fun. This, along with a trip to SXSW, sparked the Hope & Fury music series, a monthly event held at La Colombe’s Fishtown headquarters that brings together music and discussion about the tough conversations that need exploring.
“It occurred to me that we needed to create some sort of platform, so we can talk about these things,” Carmichael says. “If we’re ever going to change, it requires the people who weren’t engaged to come talk about it.”
With topics ranging from mental health to immigration to gun safety, the evenings take a closer look at the issue and what it means for the community, hoping to find the opportunity to allow people to meet in the middle, or at least inch a bit closer. And if that doesn’t work, the free beer and entertainment does the trick.
Friday’s focus will be the one thing that should be on everyone’s mind this month—voting. The night will include discussions about voter registration, how to vote, where to vote and hone in on why Philadelphians should do it at all.
“I have political ideas about how we should behave as a city, as a state, as a country,” Carmichael says. “Doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with them, but we do all have to agree that we need to vote.”
Friday’s band will be Philly’s own hip-hop indie soul group Hardwork Movement, whose aim is “to make music that is inclusive, original, and inspires all listeners to strive towards uniqueness in all that they do.”
The group comprised of four MCs and a five-piece live band sheds positive light on being “the true you” and all the challenges and hard work that come with following your dreams. Their Philly roots show in the song “On the Rise” with lyrics like “Our nation’s first capital / no wonder we grind with attitude,” paying homage to the City of Brotherly Love’s tough (and newly gritty) exterior.
Performances by Stephen Cobb and C. Jae & Armani Lee will also keep the audience engaged throughout the night. While the event is free and open to all—a 500-person cap, which the team has exceeded at past events—Carmichael does encourage donating to an organization of their choosing that’s relevant to the topic. For this round, Emerge Pennsylvania, an organization that trains and provides “a powerful network to Democratic women who want to run for office and win,” will be featured.
Carmichael, a true Philadelphian at heart, wants the audience to be angry, to experience fury, but challenges them to dig deeper. “If you have fury and you feel like your voice isn’t being heard, you’re just an angry person,” he says. “At the end of the night, we’re giving people the opportunity to talk about what our politicians can’t, but I think our citizens can. Action can only come from hope and fury.”
Hope & Fury: Time to Vote, Friday, 6:30 pm-9:30 pm, Free, La Colombe Fishtown, 1335 Frankford Ave. RSVP HerePhoto via La Colombe